OSSOS. VI. Striking biases in the detection of large semimajor axis trans-neptunian objects

C. Shankman, J.J. Kavelaars, M.T. Bannister, B.J. Gladman, S.M. Lawler, Y.-T. Chen, M. Jakubik, N. Kaib, M. Alexandersen, S.D.J. Gwyn, J.-M. Petit, K. Volk

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The accumulating but small set of large semimajor axis trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) shows an apparent clustering in the orientations of their orbits. This clustering must either be representative of the intrinsic distribution of these TNOs, or else have arisen as a result of observation biases and/or statistically expected variations for such a small set of detected objects. The clustered TNOs were detected across different and independent surveys, which has led to claims that the detections are therefore free of observational bias. This apparent clustering has led to the so-called "Planet 9" hypothesis that a super-Earth currently resides in the distant solar system and causes this clustering. The Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) is a large program that ran on the Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope from 2013 to 2017, discovering more than 800 new TNOs. One of the primary design goals of OSSOS was the careful determination of observational biases that would manifest within the detected sample. We demonstrate the striking and non-intuitive biases that exist for the detection of TNOs with large semimajor axes. The eight large semimajor axis OSSOS detections are an independent data set, of comparable size to the conglomerate samples used in previous studies. We conclude that the orbital distribution of the OSSOS sample is consistent with being detected from a uniform underlying angular distribution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2017

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