PI: David E. Trilling, Northern Arizona University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, PO Box 6010, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA
CoI: Hilke Schlichting, UCLA
CoI: Cesar Fuentes, Northern Arizona University
Title: A DECam search for Centaurs: Probing planetary formation in the outer Solar System
Abstract: The Solar System is surrounded by a ring of rocky/icy bodies known as Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). The KBO size distribution records the history of the outer Solar System. Small (<20 km) KBOs are beyond the sensitivity of essentially all current KBO searches. We have recently produced a theoretical model for the formation and evolution of the outer Solar System that matches the KBO size distribution at larger sizes (>20 km) and predicts a steep upturn in the size distribution from 10 km down to 1 km. Although KBOs of this size are undetectable at present, this size range is detectable in the Centaur population: a group of objects that escaped from the Kuiper Belt and now inhabit interplanetary space between Jupiter and Neptune. We propose a two night DECam survey for Centaurs. We will discover some 50 Centaurs in the largest debiased Centaur survey ever carried out; measure for the first time the size distribution of small Centaurs; and test our theoretical prediction for the physics of the outer Solar System. With the same data set, we will also complete two ancillary science goals: establishing the source of the Jupiter Family Comets and testing for collisional evolution in the faint KBO population among the thousands of KBOs that we will discover as a byproduct of this investigation.
National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 950 North Cherry Avenue, P.O. Box 26732, Tucson, Arizona 85726, Phone: (520) 318-8000, Fax: (520) 318-8360