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Searching for Close Satellites of the New Horizons KBO Flyby Target (486958) Arrokoth

Presentation #508.01 in the session “Arrokoth”.

Published onOct 26, 2020
Searching for Close Satellites of the New Horizons KBO Flyby Target (486958) Arrokoth

Before and after its close approach to 486958 Arrokoth on January 1st 2019, the New Horizons spacecraft conducted a series of extensive searches for satellites, rings, or other material around this cold classical Kuiper Belt object (CCKBO). While many CCKBOs belong to similar-mass binary systems, the prevalence of small satellites around small CCKBOs was previously unconstrained. Initial searches (Stern et al. 2019, Spencer et al. 2020) found no surrounding rings or dust, and no satellites larger than 150 meters in diameter within 8000 km of Arrokoth. Close approach images provide an opportunity to search for smaller satellites within a few 100 km of Arrokoth, though analysis is complicated by the rapidly-changing viewing geometry of the available images. We report on a search of close approach images taken with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) for small, close, satellites that would have escaped detection in previous searches. The resulting detections or non-detections will have implications for the origin and evolution of the Arrokoth contact binary.


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