The density of mid-sized Kuiper belt objects from ALMA thermal observations [EPA]

http://arxiv.org/abs/1702.07414


The densities of mid-sized Kuiper belt objects are a key constraint into understanding the assembly of objects in the outer solar system. These objects are critical for understanding the currently unexplained transition from the smallest Kuiper belt objects with densities lower than that of water to the largest objects with significant rock content. Mapping this transition is made difficult by the uncertainties in the diameters of these objects, which maps into an even larger uncertainty in volume and thus density. The substantial collecting area of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array allows significantly more precise measurements of thermal emission from outer solar system objects and could potentially greatly improve the density measurements. Here we use new thermal observations of four objects with satellites to explore the improvements possible with millimeter data. We find that effects due to effective emissivity at millimeter wavelengths make it difficult to use the millimeter data directly to find diameters and thus volumes for these bodies. In addition, we find that when including the effects of model uncertainty, the true uncertainties on the sizes of outer solar system objects measured with radiometry are likely larger than those previously published. Substantial improvement in object sizes will likely require precise occultation measurements.

Read this paper on arXiv…

M. Brown and B. Butler
Mon, 27 Feb 17
17/49

Comments: AJ, in press