Study of Some Dynamical Phenomena in the Solar System

Vaduvescu, O.
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PhD Thesis, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

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The number of minor bodies in the Solar System is continuing to increase. More than 30,000 asteroids have been discovered by 1996, and about 7,000 have been catalogued. About 855 comets had known orbits by 1994. The number of known planetary satellites reached 60 (1996). All these minor bodies require improved astrometry, also more accurate physical parameters (sizes, masses, albedo, etc) to ensure accurate determination of their orbits. Some rapid dynamical phenomena could bring valuable information in this sense. Occultations and appulses (close approaches) of stars by asteroids represent the most accurate phenomena to determine or constraint sizes and shape of the asteroids. Given a fixed place, such events are very rare. Moreover, their prediction could be quite inaccurate, due to the reduced accuracy in both stellar and asteroid positions. Coordinated international campaigns, such as those lead by EAON (European Asteroidal Occultation Network) and IOTA (International Occultation Timing Association) could determine sizes and shapes of the asteroids. Some events could also lead to the discovery of double or triple asteroids systems. Four appulses involving PPM catalog stars and the minor planets (7) Iris, (297) Caecilia, (382) Dodona, and (824) Anastasia were observed by the author using the F=6m/D=0.38m refractor of the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy (AIRA) in Bucharest. None were recorded as occultations, but their reduced astrometry (~0.01 arcsec) brought valuable information about the time of minimum approach and the minimum distance between the start and the asteroid, leading to some constraints about their sizes. Mutual phenomena in the systems of satellites of Jupiter and Saturn could bring valuable information about planetary and satellite masses, also about their moons orbits. Such phenomena are eclipses, occultations and passages between a satellite and the planet, and mutual eclipses and occultations between two satellites. Such events took place in 1995-1996 in the system of Saturn, when Earth passed through the plane of the ring of Saturn, allowing increased accuracy in timing and astrometry of the events, via photometry. Some contributions have been made by AIRA part of the international campaign PHESAT95 lead by Bureau des Longitudes in Paris, in which the author was involved part of a small team (3 people). Astrometry of a small CCD field (<5 arcmin) from a light polluted place (such as Bucharest) can be challenging, due to the few number of stars in the field, also to the low density of the astrometric catalogs (e.g., PPM). Most of the times only one or two stars in the field can be used for astrometry. The orientation of the CCD camera on the sky has to be determined for every observation, due to the flexure of the F=6m refractor which was determined to be different given various positions of the telescope during the night. A catalog of double, triple and multiple PPM stars in a small field (5x5 arcmin) was built in order to allow the observation of an orientation field close to every science field observed during the night. Some contributions to the astronomical software library of AIRA and its Astronomical Yearbook were made by the author in conjunction with this thesis. Other software were written to assist the observing runs and data reduction. We note here the following: CELESTIAL MAPS 5.0, MAPSAT, APRPPM, TOP, INTTOP, ORIENT, RELCCD, ABSCCD, PARGEO, SEPAD, EPHEMERID, LAPLACE, etc. Some contributions to the correlation of the orbital elements of the asteroids (semimajor axis, eccentricity, inclination, longitude of the ascending node and longitude of the perihelium) were made using the ASTEROIDS II database using the principal component analysis. A curious distribution of perihelion longitudes of the asteroids showing symmetry of the number of asteroids around perihelion longitude 180 deg was found using the IRAS database. This could be attributed to perturbations from Jupiter. Scanned thesis in pdf format available online at (200 pags, 9 MB)