Candidate Members and Age Estimate of the Family of Kuiper Belt Object 2003 EL61


The collisional family of Kuiper belt object (KBO) 2003 EL61 opens the possibility for many interesting new studies of processes important in the formation and evolution of the outer solar system. As the first family in the Kuiper belt, it can be studied using techniques developed for studying asteroid families, although some modifications are necessary. Applying these modified techniques allows for a dynamical study of the 2003 EL61 family. The velocity required to change orbits is used to quantitatively identify objects near the collision. A method for identifying family members that have potentially diffused in resonances (like 2003 EL61) is also developed. Known family members are among the very closest KBOs to the collision and two new likely family members are identified: 2003 UZ117 and 1999 OY3. We also give tables of candidate family members which require future observations to confirm membership. We estimate that a minimum of ~1 GYr is needed for resonance diffusion to produce the current position of 2003 EL61, implying that the family is likely primordial. Future refinement of the age estimate is possible once (many) more resonant objects are identified. The ancient nature of the collision contrasts with the seemingly fresh surfaces of known family members, suggesting that our understanding of outer solar system surfaces is incomplete.Comment: 22 pages, 5 figures, accepted to AJ, author's cv available at

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