We show that for low temperatures (T ∼ 30 K) and small, but non-negligible, gravitational fields the hydrodynamic escape of gas can be treated by Parker's theory of coronal expansion [Parker, E.N., 1963. Interplanetary Dynamical Processes. Interscience Publishers, New York]. We apply this theory to gas escape from Kuiper belt objects. We derive limits on the density and radius of the bodies for which this theory is applicable, and show how the flow depends on the mean molecular weight and internal degrees of freedom of the gas molecules. We use these results to explain the CH4 dichotomy seen on KBOs [Schaller, E.L., Brown, M.E., 2007. Astrophys. J., 659, L61-L64].
- Kuiper belt
- Trans-neptunian objects