A SEARCH FOR SUB-km KUIPER BELT OBJECTS WITH THE METHOD OF SERENDIPITOUS STELLAR OCCULTATIONS Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • The results of a search for sub-km Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) with the method of serendipitous stellar occultations are reported. Photometric time series were obtained on the 1.8m telescope at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) in Victoria, BC, and were analyzed for the presence of occultation events. Observations were performed at 40 Hz and included a total of 5.0 star-hours for target stars in the ecliptic open cluster M35 (beta=0.9deg), and 2.1 star-hours for control stars in the off-ecliptic open cluster M34 (beta=25.7deg). To evaluate the recovery fraction of the analysis method, and thereby determine the limiting detectable size, artificial occultation events were added to simulated time series (1/f scintillation-like power-spectra), and to the real data. No viable candidate occultation events were detected. This limits the cumulative surface density of KBOs to 3.5e10 deg^{-2} (95% confidence) for KBOs brighter than m_R=35.3 (larger than ~860m in diameter, assuming a geometric albedo of 0.04 and a distance of 40 AU). An evaluation of TNO occultations reported in the literature suggests that they are unlikely to be genuine, and an overall 95%-confidence upper limit on the surface density of 2.8e9 deg^{-2} is obtained for KBOs brighter than m_R=35 (larger than ~1 km in diameter, assuming a geometric albedo of 0.04 and a distance of 40 AU) when all existing surveys are combined.

publication date

  • March 1, 2008