The DECam Ecliptic Exploration Project (DEEP). IV. Constraints on the Shape Distribution of Bright Trans-Neptunian Objects

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We present the methods and results from the discovery and photometric measurement of 26 bright VR > 24 trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) during the first year (2019-20) of the DECam Ecliptic Exploration Project (DEEP). The DEEP survey is an observational TNO survey with wide sky coverage, high sensitivity, and a fast photometric cadence. We apply a computer vision technique known as a progressive probabilistic Hough transform to identify linearly moving transient sources within DEEP photometric catalogs. After subsequent visual vetting, we provide a photometric and astrometric catalog of our TNOs. By modeling the partial lightcurve amplitude distribution of the DEEP TNOs using Monte Carlo techniques, we find our data to be most consistent with an average TNO axis ratio b/a < 0.5, implying a population dominated by non-spherical objects. Based on ellipsoidal gravitational stability arguments, we find our data to be consistent with a TNO population containing a high fraction of contact binaries or other extremely non-spherical objects. We also discuss our data as evidence that the expected binarity fraction of TNOs may be size-dependent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number135
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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