The DECam Ecliptic Exploration Project (DEEP). I. Survey Description, Science Questions, and Technical Demonstration

David E. Trilling, David W. Gerdes, Mario Jurić, Chadwick A. Trujillo, Pedro H. Bernardinelli, Kevin J. Napier, Hayden Smotherman, Ryder Strauss, Cesar Fuentes, Matthew J. Holman, Hsing Wen Lin, Larissa Markwardt, Andrew McNeill, Michael Mommert, William J. Oldroyd, Matthew J. Payne, Darin Ragozzine, Andrew S. Rivkin, Hilke Schlichting, Scott S. SheppardFred C. Adams, Colin Orion Chandler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We present here the DECam Ecliptic Exploration Project (DEEP), a 3 yr NOAO/NOIRLab Survey that was allocated 46.5 nights to discover and measure the properties of thousands of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) to magnitudes as faint as VR ∼ 27 mag, corresponding to sizes as small as 20 km diameter. In this paper we present the science goals of this project, the experimental design of our survey, and a technical demonstration of our approach. The core of our project is “digital tracking,” in which all collected images are combined at a range of motion vectors to detect unknown TNOs that are fainter than the single exposure depth of VR ∼ 23 mag. Through this approach, we reach a depth that is approximately 2.5 mag fainter than the standard LSST “wide fast deep” nominal survey depth of 24.5 mag. DEEP will more than double the number of known TNOs with observational arcs of 24 hr or more, and increase by a factor of 10 or more the number of known small (<50 km) TNOs. We also describe our ancillary science goals, including measuring the mean shape distribution of very small main-belt asteroids, and briefly outline a set of forthcoming papers that present further aspects of and preliminary results from the DEEP program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number132
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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