May 11, 2011 - "Wide Binaries in the Kuiper Belt" - Alex Parker

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A single close encounter between a binary and NeptuneMay 11, 2011 - Wide Binaries in the Kuiper Belt - Alex Parker, fourth-year doctoral student in Astronomy, University of Victoria

Outside the orbit of Neptune lies a region of the Solar System filled with icy bodies kept in deep-freeze since the era of planet formation. This region, called the Kuiper Belt, holds valuable information about the early and ongoing history of the Solar System. By determining the orbits, composition, and collisional histories of the objects in the Kuiper Belt, we can better understand the mechanisms which governed planet formation and the migration of the giant planets. A special class of Kuiper Belt objects orbit as pairs; these binary systems are particularly rich troves of information, and I will show how they answer some questions about the history of the outer Solar System while at the same time they raise new ones about the mechanisms of planet formation.

Presentation (6Mb pdf) - slides of presentation and embedded links to animations. The animations can also be found here.

Bio: After completing his Bachelors in Astronomy and Physics at the University of Washington, Alex now attends the University of Victoria as a fourth-year doctoral student in Astronomy. His research interests revolve around the formation and evolution of planetary systems: Asteroid and Kuiper-Belt Object dynamics and surface processes, detection and characterization of extrasolar planetary systems and protoplanetary disks, and planetary geology. Currently he is finishing his doctoral thesis on the dynamics of binary systems in the outer Solar System, and after defending his thesis this summer he will be heading to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to help locate a second target for the New Horizons spacecraft to visit after its rendezvous with Pluto in 2015. Alex Harrison Parker - Astronomy - Science

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