Kuiper belt occultation predictions

Wesley C. Fraser, Stephen Gwyn, Chad Trujillo, Andrew W. Stephens, J. J. Kavelaars, Michael E. Brown, Federica B. Bianco, Richard P. Boyle, Melissa J. Brucker, Nathan Hetherington, Michael Joner, William C. Keel, Phil P. Langill, Tim Lister, Russet J. McMillan, Leslie Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Here we present observations of seven large Kuiper Belt objects. From these observations, weextract a point source catalog with ~0:01″ precision, and astrometry of our target Kuiper Belt objects with0.04-0.08″ precision within that catalog. We have developed a new technique to predict the future occurrenceof stellar occultations by Kuiper Belt objects. The technique makes use of a maximum likelihood approach whichdetermines the best-fit adjustment to cataloged orbital elements of an object. Using simulations of a theoreticalobject, we discuss the merits and weaknesses of this technique compared to the commonly adopted ephemeris offsetapproach. We demonstrate that both methods suffer from separate weaknesses, and thus together provide a fairassessment of the true uncertainty in a particular prediction. We present occultation predictions made by both methodsfor the seven tracked objects, with dates as late as 2015. Finally, we discuss observations of three separate closepassages of Quaoar to field stars, which reveal the accuracy of the element adjustment approach, and which alsodemonstrate the necessity of considering the uncertainty in stellar position when assessing potential occultations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1000-1014
Number of pages15
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number930
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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