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February 7, 2013: Neutral Trans-Neptunian Objects through Rotational Lightcurves

Posted on Dec 20, 2013 in Seminars

Sarah Sonnet (JPL)

Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) are small bodies with orbits beyond Neptune. Roughly 1/3 of TNOs possess peculiarly neutral colors indicative of fresh surfaces, though these objects are thought to be isolated and inactive. To discern between explanations for these neutral colors, we conducted two surveys to search for homogeneity on the surfaces of neutral TNOs – a brightness variation survey in which we sparsely sampled lightcurves of 38 neutral TNOs to select follow-up targets, and a color variation survey of the 9 follow-up targets to densely sample their rotational lightcurves and obtain rotationally phased colors. Our data showcase a surprising number of rotational lightcurves that can only be explained as binaries (some from within the Haumea collisional family). We also found that one of our objects has the fastest measured rotation period of any outer solar system object at 2.4 or 2.6 hours. I will present these results along with updated amplitude and spin distributions for TNOs and comment on what these data suggest about how the dynamical history of the outer solar system.