DPS 2001 meeting, November 2001
Session 6. Kuiper Belt and KBOs I: Extent and Character
Oral, Chairs: D. Jewitt, S. Lederer, Tuesday, November 27, 2001, 2:00-3:20pm, Regency GH

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[6.07] Lightcurves of 13 Kuiper Belt Objects

S. S. Sheppard, D. C. Jewitt (Univ. of Hawaii)

We use voluminous time-resolved optical photometry to study the rotational photometric properties of 13 Kuiper Belt objects. The bulk of the observations were taken in the R-band with the University of Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope on Mauna Kea. Observations in other filters were targeted to particular objects and features in the measured lightcurves. Four of the objects in our sample were found to exhibit significant light variation. Three of these have large amplitudes (>0.4 magnitudes) and short periods. We infer that these lightcurves are due to equatorially elongated body shapes rather than to non-uniform surface albedo patterns. Curiously, the objects are very large (> 250 km diameters) if their albedos are low and should be near spherical due to gravitational pressures. Since the objects have large diameters, large amplitudes, and short rotation periods we suspect that they are rubble piles distorted by their large angular momenta. Another possibility is that these are contact binaries, formed by low velocity collisions in an earlier, denser Kuiper Belt. The rotational properties of Kuiper Belt objects will help us determine their physical characteristics and the formation and collisional evolution of the Kuiper Belt.

This work is supported by the NASA Origins Program.

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The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: sheppard@ifa.hawaii.edu

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