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Proposal Information for 2010A-0418


PI: Scott Sheppard, Carnegie Institution of Washington, sheppard@dtm.ciw.edu
Address: Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, 5241 Broad Branch Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20015, USA

CoI: Chad Trujillo, Gemini Observatory

Title: A Survey for L5 Neptune Trojans

Abstract: Trojan asteroids share a planet's semi-major axis but lead (L4) or follow (L5) the planet by about 60 degrees near the two triangular Lagrangian points of equilibrium. These minor planets were likely captured in these locations around the planet formation epoch and thus their current dynamical and physical properties will help constrain the formation, evolution and migration of the planets. The Neptune Trojans currently consist of only six known objects, all in the leading L4 cloud. Three of these were discovered in our initial survey of the L4 region allowing us to determine that Neptune was likely on a much more eccentric orbit in the distant past. We propose to obtain the first wide-field survey for Neptune Trojans in the trailing L5 region. Only with knowledge of the Neptune Trojan numbers and orbits in both the L4 and L5 clouds will we be able to understand the Trojans formation and evolution and further constrain planet accretion and migration. In addition, the Pluto New Horizons spacecraft will pass through the Neptune L5 Trojan cloud in 2013 on its way to Pluto. It is important that we understand the possible dust production produced by collisions of the Trojans as well as find suitable Trojans that New Horizons will observe as it passes through the area. (This proposal was granted time in 2009A but weather did not allow us to open the telescope dome and thus this is a resubmission.)


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