Earth, Moon, and Planets

, Volume 92, Issue 1, pp 99-112

First online:

The Caltech Wide Area Sky Survey

  • C. A. TrujilloAffiliated withDepartment of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology
  • , M. E. BrownAffiliated withDepartment of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology

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The first phase of the Caltech Wide Area Sky Survey occurred from lateNovember 2001 through mid-April 2003. We present preliminary resultsfrom this survey which has detected 28 bright Kuiper Belt Objects(KBOs) and 4 Centaurs, 19 of which were discovered in our surveyincluding Quaoar, the largest KBO, as well as 6 of the 10intrinsically brightest KBOs. We have surveyed 5108 square degrees ofthe sky nearest the invariable plane to a limiting red magnitude of20.7. Correcting for the overabundance of objects near the invariableplane, this represents 27% completeness in terms of KBO numbers.Thus, approximately 100 KBOs and Centaurs brighter than mR = 20.7exist, about 3/4 of which remain undiscovered. The bright KBOs areconsistent with the canonical q=4 size distribution, suggesting thatabout ten 1000 km diameter KBOs and about one 2000 km diameter KBOexist. Additionally, we observe only 3 KBOs with low inclination(i < 7 degrees) with 67% of the sky available to these objectssurveyed. This is in sharp contrast with the known KBOs, of whichabout 60% of the ∼ 800 observed objects (as of May 2003) have i< 7 degrees. Although we observe at systematically higher invariableplane latitudes than many deeper KBO surveys, such systematic biasescannot fully explain the lack of low inclination objects, ameasurement which is significant at the > 3 σ level. Thissuggests that the bright KBOs have a fundamentally different maximumsize than the fainter KBOs. A better characterization of the surveylimiting magnitude and a more thorough modeling of observational biaseffects of different classes of KBOs will be made in a future work.