NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2011A-0017

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Proposal Information for 2011A-0017


PI: William M. Grundy, Lowell Observatory, W.Grundy@lowell.edu
Address: Lowell Observatory, 1400 W. Mars Hill Rd., Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA

CoI: Henry G. Roe, Lowell Observatory
CoI: Chadwick A. Trujillo, Gemini Observatory
CoI: Simon B. Porter, Lowell Observatory & Arizona State Univ.
CoI: Keith S. Noll, Space Telescope Science Institute

Title: Mutual Orbits and Masses of Kuiper Belt Binaries and Multiple Systems

Abstract: The planetesimals in the Kuiper belt are a mixed group of survivors originating at different places in the proto\-planetary nebula around the young Sun. They show a remarkable diversity of surface properties, but this heterogeneity remains to be understood in terms of formation in physically and chemically distinct nebular regions. Trans\-neptunian binary and multiple systems can provide this link through measurement of their mutual orbits and masses, opening the door to a rich family of investigations that can probe bulk properties such as density and albedo, chemical composition, and internal structure. Binaries are a natural laboratory for a wealth of dynamical studies that can constrain conditions at the time of their formation as well as their subsequent evolution. But to realize their full potential to elucidate conditions in the proto\-planetary nebula requires access to a large sample to tease apart the distinct influences of formation conditions and subsequent history. The natural time-dependence of this problem and the necessity of a large sample call for the investment of a survey program.


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