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The La Silla QUEST Kuiper belt Survey

Megan Schwamb


The La Silla QUEST Kuiper belt Survey is searching for the largest and brightest planetesimals in the outer solar system in the Southern Hemisphere.  Using the ESO 1.0-m Schmidt telescope, located at La Silla Observatory in Chile, equipped with Yale's 10 square degree QUEST camera, we have been searching for distant Pluto-sized bodies out to distances of ~150 AU in the Southern Skies down to a limiting magnitude of 21.5 in R band.  To date the survey has covered ~10,000 square degrees south of the ecliptic. Using the SMARTS 1.3-m telescope, we have been further studying orbits and optical colors of our new discoveries.  At discovery, only the distance and inclination of the planetesimal's orbit can be accurately estimated and the body's positional uncertainty grows over time. Only with follow-up astrometric observations, can we constrain the  orbits of our discoveries and ensure that they can be found in future years. Using the SMARTS 1.3-m, we have obtained follow-up observations to secure the orbits of our new discoveries and allow additional follow-up studies. The first results and detections from the survey. The survey has found 63 new Kuiper belt objects and Centaurs to date, including 2010 WG9, a new high-inclination Centaur, with an inclination greater than 70 degrees and at ~18 AU perihelion near Uranus, believed to originate from the Oort Cloud.





Image Credits: (header) NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)

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