An Observational Upper Limit on the Interstellar Number Density of Asteroids and Comets
AffiliationUniv Arizona, Lunar & Planetary Lab
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PublisherIOP PUBLISHING LTD
CitationAn Observational Upper Limit on the Interstellar Number Density of Asteroids and Comets 2017, 153 (3):133 The Astronomical Journal
JournalThe Astronomical Journal
Rights© 2017. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Collection InformationThis item from the UA Faculty Publications collection is made available by the University of Arizona with support from the University of Arizona Libraries. If you have questions, please contact us at email@example.com.
AbstractWe derived 90% confidence limits (CLs) on the interstellar number density (rho(CL)(IS)) of interstellar objects (ISOs; comets and asteroids) as a function of the slope of their size-frequency distribution (SFD) and limiting absolute magnitude. To account for gravitational focusing, we first generated a quasi-realistic ISO population to similar to 750 au from the Sun and propagated it forward in time to generate a steady state population of ISOs with heliocentric distance <50 au. We then simulated the detection of the synthetic ISOs using pointing data for each image and average detection efficiencies for each of three contemporary solar system surveys-Pan-STARRS1, the Mt. Lemmon Survey, and the Catalina Sky Survey. These simulations allowed us to determine the surveys' combined ISO detection efficiency under several different but realistic modes of identifying ISOs in the survey data. Some of the synthetic detected ISOs had eccentricities as small as 1.01, which is in the range of the largest eccentricities of several known comets. Our best CL of rho(CL)(SI) = 1.4 x 10(-4) au(-3) implies that the expectation that extra-solar systems form like our solar system, eject planetesimals in the same way, and then distribute them throughout the Galaxy, is too simplistic, or that the SFD or behavior of ISOs as they pass through our solar system is far from expectation.
VersionFinal published version