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By Pedro Lacerda and Jane Luu


We present a statistical study of the detectability of lightcurves of Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs). Some Kuiper Belt objects display lightcurves that appear ”flat”, i.e., there are no significant brightness variations within the photometric uncertainties. Under the assumption that KBO lightcurves are mainly due to shape, the lack of brightness variations may be due to (1) the objects have very nearly spherical shapes, or (2) their rotation axes coincide with the line of sight. We investigate the relative importance of these two effects and relate it to the observed fraction of “flat ” lightcurves. This study suggests that the fraction of KBOs with detectable brightness variations may provide clues about the shape distribution of these objects. Although the current database of rotational properties of KBOs is still insufficient to draw any statistically meaningful conclusions, we expect that, with a larger dataset, this method will provide a useful test for candidate KBO shape distributions. Subject headings: Kuiper Belt — minor planets, asteroids — solar system: general 1

Year: 2003
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