The size distribution of the Neptune Trojans and the Missing Intermediate-Sized Planetesimals

Scott S. Sheppard, Chadwick A. Trujillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


We present an ultra-deep survey for Neptune Trojans using the Subaru 8.2 m and Magellan 6.5 m telescopes. The survey reached a 50% detection efficiency in the R band at mR = 25.7 mag and covered 49 deg2 of sky. mR = 25.7 mag corresponds to Neptune Trojans that are about 16 km in radius (assuming an albedo of 0.05). A paucity of smaller Neptune Trojans (radii < 45 km) compared with larger ones was found. The brightest Neptune Trojans appear to follow a steep power-law slope (q = 5 ± 1) similar to the brightest objects in the other known stable reservoirs such as the Kuiper Belt, Jupiter Trojans, and main belt asteroids.We find a roll-over for the Neptune Trojans that occurs around a radius of r = 45 ± 10 km (mR = 23.5 ± 0.3), which is also very similar to the other stable reservoirs. All the observed stable regions in the solar system show evidence for Missing Intermediate-Sized Planetesimals (MISPs). This indicates a primordial and not collisional origin, which suggests that planetesimal formation proceeded directly from small to large objects. The scarcity of intermediate- and smaller-sized Neptune Trojans may limit them as being a strong source for the short period comets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L233-L237
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2 PART 2
StatePublished - Nov 10 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Comets: general
  • Kuiper Belt: general
  • Minor planets, asteroids: general
  • Planets and satellites: formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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