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Detection of six trans-Neptunian binaries with NICMOS: A high fraction of binaries in the Cold Classical disk. Astrophys

By Denise C. Stephens and Keith S. Noll


We have analyzed a homogeneous set of observations of eighty-one transneptunian objects obtained with the NIC2 camera on the Hubble Space Telescope with the goal of identifying partially resolved binaries. Using PSF-fitting we have identified six likely binaries in addition to the three new binaries already found in this data set. We find that 11 ± 5 % of transneptunian objects are binaries 2 at separation and brightness limits of the NIC2 camera. The identification of these new binaries significantly increases the known lower limit to the binary fraction among transneptunian objects. The origin of such a high fraction of binaries remains to be determined. Most interestingly, detectable binaries appear to be about four times more common among the cold classical disk than in the dynamically excited populations. Subject headings: Kuiper Belt, Oort cloud – 3 – 1

Year: 2006
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