Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Astronomy

First Advisor

Ann-Marie Madigan

Abstract

Our Solar System contains a large population of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. This group of objects, known as the Kuiper Belt, are remnants from early in the formation of the Solar System. However, these bodies exhibit strange orbital characteristics, hinting at the possibility of a missing chapter in the Solar System's formation history. To find an explanation to these phenomena, we investigate the effects that the KBOs' collective gravity has on the Solar System using computer simulations. In doing so, we find a new mechanism capable of changing objects' distances of closest approach to the Sun. We make this new mechanism the main subject of our investigation given that orbits in the Kuiper Belt exhibit strikingly similar attributes. We find that although this new mechanism is thoroughly interesting, it cannot change KBOs' orbits within the age of the Solar System. It could however be responsible for phenomenon a bit farther from home; namely, feeding supermassive black holes and polluting the surfaces of white dwarf stars.

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