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Published December 2010 | Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

The luminosity function of the hot and cold Kuiper belt populations


We have performed an ecliptic survey of the Kuiper belt, with an areal coverage of 8.9 square degrees to a 50% limiting magnitude of r'_(Sloan) = 24.7, and have detected 88 Kuiper belt objects, roughly half of which received follow-up 1–2 months after detection. Using this survey data alone, we have measured the luminosity function of the Kuiper belt, thus avoiding any biases that might come from the inclusion of other observations. We have found that the Cold population defined as having inclinations less than 5° has a luminosity function slope α_(Cold) = 0.82 ± 0.23, and is different from the Hot population, which has inclinations greater than 5° and a luminosity function slope α_(Hot) = 0.35 ± 0.21. As well, we have found that those objects closer than 38 AU have virtually the same luminosity function slope as the Hot population. This result, along with similar findings of past surveys demonstrates that the dynamically Cold Kuiper belt objects likely have a steep size distribution, and are unique from all of the excited populations which have much shallower distributions. This suggests that the dynamically excited population underwent a different accretion history and achieved a more evolved state of accretion than the Cold population. As well, we discuss the similarities of the Cold and Hot populations with the size distributions of other planetesimal populations. We find that while the Jupiter family comets and the scattered disk exhibit similar size distributions, a power-law extrapolation to small sizes for the scattered disk cannot account for the observed influx of comets. As well, we have found that the Jupiter Trojan and Hot populations cannot have originated from the same parent population, a result that is difficult to reconcile with scattering models similar to the NICE model. We conclude that the similarity between the size distributions of the Cold population and the Jupiter Trojan population is a striking coincidence.

Additional Information

© 2010 Elsevier Inc. Received 4 May 2010; revised 12 July 2010; accepted 2 August 2010. Available online 12 August 2010. Based in part on data collected at Subaru telescope, which is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the W.M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This research used the facilities of the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre operated by the National Research Council of Canada with the support of the Canadian Space Agency. The research upon which this paper is based was supported by National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) Grant No. NASA.000261.

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