The first high-phase observations of a KBO: New Horizons imaging of (15810) 1994 JR1 from the Kuiper Belt

S. B. Porter, J. R. Spencer, S. Benecchi, A. J. Verbiscer, A. M. Zangari, H. A. Weaver, T. R. Lauer, A. H. Parker, M. W. Buie, A. F. Cheng, L. A. Young, C. B. Olkin, K. Ennico, S. A. Stern, and the New Horizons Science Team ApJL 828, 15 (2016).


NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft observed (15810) 1994 JR1, a 3:2 resonant Kuiper belt object (KBO), using the LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on 2015 November 2 from a distance of 1.85 AU and again on 2016 April 7 from a distance of 0.71 AU. These were the first close observations of any KBO other than Pluto. Combining ground-based and Hubble Space Telescope (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°. 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° mean topographic slope angle and has a relatively rapid rotation period of 5.47 ± 0.33 hr. 1994 JR1 is currently 2.7 AU from Pluto; our astrometric points enable high-precision orbit determination and integrations that show that it comes this close to Pluto every 2.4 million years (104 heliocentric orbits), causing Pluto to perturb 1994 JR1. During the November spacecraft observation, the KBO was simultaneously observed using HST in two colors, confirming its very red spectral slope. These observations have laid the groundwork for numerous potential future distant KBO observations in the New Horizons-Kuiper belt extended mission.

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