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C.M. Ernst (Brown University), M.J. Holman (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)
Since the first direct detection of a Kuiper belt object (KBO) in 1992, over 200 of these objects have been discovered by a number of groups. Available observations and theoretical models suggest that the Kuiper belt is comprised of three principal populations: objects, like Pluto, in Neptune's mean motion resonances, objects with more distant non-resonant orbits, and objects with highly eccentric orbits that may permit occasional close approaches with Neptune. The discovery of KBOs alone does little to advance our scientific understanding of their distribution and dynamical evolution unless sufficient follow-up observations are available to make unequivocal determinations of their orbits, which typically requires intermittent observations over at least a 2-year baseline after their initial discovery (due to their very long orbital periods).
We describe a continuing program to provide consistent follow-up astrometry of KBOs. This program involves a number of observers using a variety of telescopes. Here we report results from the F. L. Whipple Observatory's 1.2-meter telescope on Mt. Hopkins, Arizona, the Apache Point Observatory's 3.5-meter telescope in New Mexico, and the 2.6-meter Nordic Optical Telescope in La Palma, Spain.