Solar System formation constraints from Jupiter Trojans and TNOs using occultations
Session 9.05 Occultations (Targeted)
Thursday 06-27 | 10:30 - 10:50

The release of the Gaia astrometric catalog has revolutionized the use of occultations in the study of small bodies. The entire known Solar System is now within reach of this method of high spatial resolution investigation, second only to in situ spacecraft exploration.

The discovery of the contact binary nature of Arrokoth from occultations in 2017 and 2018 and the subsequent flyby of New Horizons in 2019 has provided extremely important constraints on details of the early accretional process as the primordial dust and gas collects into larger consolidated bodies. The highly flattened shape of Arrokoth provides compelling constraints that indicate the outer solar system still records the full imprint of accretion with being obscured by collisional processes as is the case for the main-belt asteroids interior to Jupiter.

Occultation observations of the Lucy Mission targets is the start of a much deeper investigation into a more accessible population that is expected to derive from the TNO population and with a level of collisional processing that lies between TNOs and MBOs. Indeed, all of the five principal targets have now been shown to have complicated topography consistent with a more collisions that for TNOs. The shape of Polymele, the smallest of the Lucy targets and comparable in size to Arrokoth, is highly flattened at a level similar to Arrokoth indicating that this body still retains a much of its earliest history. The Lucy Mission will soon add a deeper understanding of these objects from which we can better understand the occultation results.

Through the use of occultations, we have a tool for a widespread investigation of the small body population. This gives us the means to expand what we learn in detail about a relatively small number of bodies explored by spacecraft into a much larger framework from which to better understand the details of how our Solar System was formed.

The key to collecting such data is through community science. Pioneered by RECON (Research and Education Collaborative Occultation Network, and later expanded into large mobile campaign first for New Horizons and Arrokoth and then to larger scale mission support for Lucy and now the Emirates Main-belt Asteroid mission.

We will present a summary of methods and results from past campaigns followed by a discussion of future plans for a newly funded investigation of Jupiter Trojans by RECON and a look to the future of a larger TNO survey that can be facilitated by the soon to come VRO/LSST project.

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