Photometric observations constraining the size, shape, and albedo of 2003 EL61, a rapidly rotating, pluto-sized object in the kuiper belt

David L. Rabinowitz, Kristina Barkume, Michael E. Brown, Henry Roe, Michael Schwartz, Suzanne Tourtellotte, Chad Trujillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations

Abstract

We present measurements at optical wavelengths of the spectral reflectance, rotational light curve, and solar phase curve of 2003 EL61. With apparent visual magnitude 17.5 at 51 AU from the Sun, this newly discovered member of the classical Kuiper Belt is now the third brightest KBO after Pluto and 2005 FY9. Our observations reveal an unambiguous, double-peaked rotational light curve with period 3.9154 ± 0.0002 hr and peak-to-peak amplitude 0.28 ± 0.04 mag. This is the fastest rotation period reliably determined for any body in the solar system larger than 100 km. Assuming the body has relaxed over time to the shape taken by a homogenous fluid body, our observations tightly constrain the shape and density. Given the mass we recently determined for 2003 EL61 from the orbit of a small satellite, we also constrain the size and albedo. We find a total length of 1960-2500 km, a mean density of 2600-3340 kg m -3, and a visual albedo greater than 0.6. We also measure a neutral reflectance at visible wavelengths and a linear phase curve with slope varying from 0.09 mag deg-1 in the B band to 0.13 mag deg-1 in the I band. The absolute V-band magnitude is 0.444 ± 0.021.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1238-1251
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume639
Issue number2 I
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 10 2006
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Kuiper Belt
  • Minor planets, asteroids
  • Solar system: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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