NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2014A-0283

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Proposal Information for 2014A-0283


PI: David E. Trilling, Northern Arizona University, david.trilling@nau.edu
Address: Dept. Physics and Astronomy, PO Box 6010, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA

CoI: Hilke Schlichting, MIT
CoI: Cesar I. Fuentes, NAU

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 (Schlichting et al. 2013). 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 three 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 \em thousands of KBOs that we will discover as a byproduct of this investigation. \bf We were awarded three nights in 2013A to carry out this project, but all three were lost to an instrument failure.


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