LPL Colloquium: Dr. Audrey Thirouin
Physical Properties of the Trans-Neptunian Objects
Dr. Audrey Thirouin
Several populations of small bodies are observed in our Solar System. They are leftovers from the formation and evolution of the early Solar System, and so provide a window to that era. By studying these objects in a relevant and comprehensive way, we can obtain information about how they have chemically, physically and thermally evolved over the age of the Solar System. Over the years, various observational approaches to study the physical properties of small bodies have been performed, including spectroscopic, photometric and binarity studies. My own approach to study these objects is based on using several and complementary techniques. One of these techniques is to detect the periodic variation of their brightness as a function of time, resulting from the object’s rotation. I analyze rotational periods, surfaces, shapes and internal structures by studying rotational lightcurves. I will discuss what rotational properties of small bodies can tell us and what is the next step for a better understanding of the trans-Neptunian objects. I will also discuss the elusive contact binary population at the edge of our Solar System.