A study of binary Kuiper Belt objects
Author(s)Kern, Susan Diane
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
James L. Elliot.
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About 105 bodies larger than 100km in diameter (Jewitt 1998) reside in the Kuiper Belt, beyond the orbit of Neptune. Since 1992 observational surveys have discovered over one thousand of these objects, believed to be fossil remnants of events that occurred nearly 4.5 billion years ago. Sixteen of these objects are currently known to be binaries, and many more are expected to be discovered. As part of the Deep Ecliptic Survey (DES) I have helped catalog nearly one third of the known Kuiper Belt object (KBO) population, and used that database for further physical studies. Recovery observations for dynamical studies of newly discovered objects with the Magellan telescopes and a high resolution imager, MagiC, revealed three binaries, 88611 (2001QT297), 2003QY90, and 2005EO304. One binary was found in the discovery observations, 2003UN284. Lightcurve measurements of these, and other non-binary KBOs, were obtained to look for unique rotational characteristics. Eleven of thirty-three objects, excluding the binaries, were found to have measurable variability. One of these objects, 2002GW32 has a particularly large amplitude (> 1 magnitude) of variability, and 2002GP32 has a relatively short (3.3 hours, single-peaked) lightcurve.(cont.) Among the binary population all the observed objects showed some level of variation. The secondary of 88611 was fit with a single-peaked period of 5.50*0.02 hours while the primary component appears to be non-variable above the measurement errors (0.05 magnitudes). Neither component appears to be color variable. The components of 2003QY90 are both highly variable yielding single-peaked rotation periods of 3.4±1.1 and 7.1±2.9 hours with amplitudes of 0.34±0.12 and 0.900.36 magnitudes, respectively. The rotation periods are comparable to those of other non-binary KBOs although distinct from that of an identified contact binary. Orbits and partial orbits for Kuiper belt binaries (KBBs) show a wide range of eccentricities, and an increasing number of binaries with decreasing binary semi-major axis. These characteristics exclude the formation models proposed by Funato et al. (2003) and Weidenschilling (2002), respectively. Conversely, the formation models of Astakhov et al. (2005) and Goldreich et al. (2002) appear to describe the observations, at least in part.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, February 2006.Includes bibliographical references (p. 189-194).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.