Tuesday, June 07, 2016

New Horizons Observations of Kuiper Belt Object (15810) 1994 JR1

Red, Rough, Fast, and Perturbed: New Horizons Observations of KBO (15810) 1994 JR1 from the Kuiper Belt


Porter et al


The 3:2 resonant KBO (15810) 1994 JR1 was observed by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on November 2, 2015 from a distance of 1.85 AU, and again on April 7, 2016 from a distance of 0.71 AU. Acquired using the LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), these were the first close observations of any KBO other than Pluto, and the first ever of a small KBO. Combining ground-based and HST observations at small phase angles and the LORRI observations at higher phase angles, we produced the first disk-integrated solar phase curve of a typical KBO from alpha=0.6-58 degrees. Observations at these geometries, attainable only from a spacecraft in the outer Solar System, constrain surface properties such as macroscopic roughness and the single particle phase function. 1994 JR1 has a rough surface with a 37+/-5 degree mean topographic slope angle and has a relatively rapid rotation period of 5.47+/-0.33 hours. 1994 JR1 is currently 2.7 AU from Pluto; our astrometric points enable high-precision orbit determination and integrations which show that it comes this close to Pluto every 2.4 million years, causing Pluto to perturb 1994 JR1. During the November spacecraft observation, the KBO was simultaneously observed using the Hubble Space Telescope in two colors, confirming its very red spectral slope. These observations have laid the groundwork for numerous potential future distant KBO observations in the proposed New Horizons-Kuiper Belt Extended Mission.

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