The albedo, size, and density of binary Kuiper Belt object (47171) 1999 TC36

J. A. Stansberry, W. M. Grundy, J. L. Margot, D. P. Cruikshank, J. P. Emery, G. H. Rieke, D. E. Trilling

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38 Scopus citations


We measured the system-integrated thermal emission of the binary Kuiper Belt object (47171 ) 1999 TC36, at wavelengths near 24 and 70 μm using the Spitzer Space Telescope. We fit these data and the visual magnitude using both the standard thermal model and thermophysical models. We find that the effective diameter of the binary is 405 km, with a range of 350-470 km, and the effective visible geometric albedo for the system is 0.079, with a range of 0.055-0.11. The binary orbit, magnitude contrast between the components, and system mass have been determined from HSTdata studied by Margot et al. Our effective diameter, combined with that system mass, indicates an average density for the objects of 0.5 g cm-3, with a range 0.3-0.8 g cm -3. This density is low compared to that of materials expected to be abundant in solid bodies in the trans-Neptunian region, requiring 50%-75% of the interior of (47171 ) 1999 TC36 be taken up by void space. This conclusion is not greatly affected if (47171)1999 TC36 is "differentiated" (in the sense of having either a rocky or just a nonporous core). If the primary is itself a binary, the average density of that (hypothetical) triple system would be in the range 0.4-1.l g cm -3, with a porosity in the range 15%-70%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)556-566
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - May 20 2006


  • Infrared: solar system
  • Kuiper Belt
  • Solar system: formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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