OSSOS: X. How to Use a Survey Simulator: Statistical Testing of Dynamical Models Against the Real Kuiper Belt

Samantha M. Lawler, J. J. Kavelaars, Mike Alexandersen, Michele T. Bannister, Brett Gladman, Jean-Marc Petit, Cory Shankman

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23 Citations (Scopus)
148 Downloads (Pure)


All surveys include observational biases, which makes it impossible to directly compare properties of discovered trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) with dynamical models. However, by carefully keeping track of survey pointings on the sky, detection limits, tracking fractions, and rate cuts, the biases from a survey can be modelled in Survey Simulator software. A Survey Simulator takes an intrinsic orbital model (from, for example, the output of a dynamical Kuiper belt emplacement simulation) and applies the survey biases, so that the biased simulated objects can be directly compared with real discoveries. This methodology has been used with great success in the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) and its predecessor surveys. In this chapter, we give four examples of ways to use the OSSOS Survey Simulator to gain knowledge about the true structure of the Kuiper Belt. We demonstrate how to statistically compare different dynamical model outputs with real TNO discoveries, how to quantify detection biases within a TNO population, how to measure intrinsic population sizes, and how to use upper limits from non-detections. We hope this will provide a framework for dynamical modellers to statistically test the validity of their models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2018

Bibliographical note

submitted as a chapter in the "Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences" research topic "From Comets to Pluto and Beyond"


  • astro-ph.EP


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