AR 3701 (Archival Research)

Wed Jul 17 15:39:45 GMT 2024

Principal Investigator: David Trilling
PI Institution: Northern Arizona University
Investigators (xml)

Title: Searching for ultra-faint trans-Neptunian objects in archival NIRCam calibration data
Cycle: 2

Small objects in the outer Solar System are the most primitive relics of the formation of our Solar System. These small bodies have undergone minimal change over the last 4 billion years and record that era in their chemical and dynamical properties. The residents of this region are often referred to as trans-Neptunian objects, and they are quite difficult to study, as they are distant, have low reflectivities, and are very faint. We propose to measure the size distribution of trans-Neptunian objects as small as 10 km by analyzing hundreds of archival NIRCam calibration datasets. We will detect around 200 objects smaller than 50 km diameter — the largest ever survey of very faint objects in the outer Solar System — with the smallest objects having diameters around 5 km. We will also constrain the mean color of the faint trans-Neptunian population and compare the size distributions between dynamically cold and hot populations. All of the necessary data will be in the public archive by June 30, 2023.