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Journal Article

Compositional study of trans-Neptunian objects at λ > 2.2 μm


Müller,  T. G.
Center for Astrochemical Studies at MPE, MPI for Extraterrestrial Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Fernández-Valenzuela, E., Pinilla-Alonso, N., Stansberry, J., Emery, J. P., Perkins, W., Laerhoven, C. V., et al. (2021). Compositional study of trans-Neptunian objects at λ > 2.2 μm. The Planetary Science Journal, 2(1): 10. doi:10.3847/PSJ/abc34e.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-7F61-B
Using data from the Infrared Array Camera on the Spitzer Space Telescope, we present photometric observations of a sample of 100 trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) beyond 2.2 μm. These observations, collected with two broadband filters centered at 3.6 and 4.5 μm, were done in order to study the surface composition of TNOs, which are too faint to obtain spectroscopic measurements. With this aim, we have developed a method for the identification of different materials that are found on the surfaces of TNOs. In our sample, we detected objects with colors that are consistent with the presence of small amounts of water, and we were able to distinguish between surfaces that are predominantly composed of complex organics and amorphous silicates. We found that 86% of our sample have characteristics that are consistent with a certain amount of water ice, and the most common composition (73% of the objects) is a mixture of water ice, amorphous silicates, and complex organics. Twenty-three percent of our sample may include other ices, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, or methanol. Additionally, only small objects seem to have surfaces dominated by silicates. This method is a unique tool for the identification of complex organics and to obtain the surface composition of extremely faint objects. Furthermore, this method will be beneficial when using the James Webb Space Telescope for differentiating groups within the trans-Neptunian population.