Unbiased inclination distributions for objects in the Kuiper Belt

A. A.S. Gulbis, E. R. Adams, J. L. Elliot, S. D. Benecchi, M. W. Buie, D. E. Trilling, L. H. Wasserman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Using data from the Deep Ecliptic Survey (DES), we investigate the inclination distributions of objects in the Kuiper Belt. We present a derivation for observational bias removal and use this procedure to generate unbiased inclination distributions for Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) of different DES dynamical classes, with respect to the Kuiper Belt plane. Consistent with previous results, we find that the inclination distribution for all DES KBOs is well fit by the sum of two Gaussians, or a Gaussian plus a generalized Lorentzian, multiplied by sin i. Approximately 80% of KBOs are in the high-inclination grouping. We find that Classical object inclinations are well fit by sin i multiplied by the sum of two Gaussians, with roughly even distribution between Gaussians of widths 2.0+0065° and 8.1+2 261°. Objects in different resonances exhibit different inclination distributions. The inclinations of Scattered objects are best matched by sin i multiplied by a single Gaussian that is centered at 19.1+3 396° with a width of 6.9+4217°. Centaur inclinations peak just below 20°, with one exceptionally high-inclination object near 80°. The currently observed inclination distribution of the Centaurs is not dissimilar to that of the Scattered Extended KBOs and Jupiter-family comets, but is significantly different from the Classical and Resonant KBOs. While the sample sizes of some dynamical classes are still small, these results should begin to serve as a critical diagnostic for models of solar system evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)350-369
Number of pages20
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Asteroids: General
  • Comets: General
  • Kuiper Belt: General
  • Minor planets
  • Surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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