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Solar System Small-Body Demographics with the Palomar Transient Factory Survey


Waszczak, Adam (2015) Solar System Small-Body Demographics with the Palomar Transient Factory Survey. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z91G0J73.


Observational studies of our solar system's small-body populations (asteroids and comets) offer insight into the history of our planetary system, as these minor planets represent the left-over building blocks from its formation. The Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) survey began in 2009 as the latest wide-field sky-survey program to be conducted on the 1.2-meter Samuel Oschin telescope at Palomar Observatory. Though its main science program has been the discovery of high-energy extragalactic sources (such as supernovae), during its first five years PTF has collected nearly five million observations of over half a million unique solar system small bodies. This thesis begins to analyze this vast data set to address key population-level science topics, including: the detection rates of rare main-belt comets and small near-Earth asteroids, the spin and shape properties of asteroids as inferred from their lightcurves, the applicability of this visible light data to the interpretation of ultraviolet asteroid observations, and a comparison of the physical properties of main-belt and Jovian Trojan asteroids. Future sky-surveys would benefit from application of the analytical techniques presented herein, which include novel modeling methods and unique applications of machine-learning classification. The PTF asteroid small-body data produced in the course of this thesis work should remain a fertile source of solar system science and discovery for years to come.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Solar System, asteroids, astronomy, planetary science, sky survey
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Planetary Sciences
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Kulkarni, Shrinivas R.
Group:Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Stevenson, David John (chair)
  • Prince, Thomas A.
  • Brown, Michael E.
  • Kulkarni, Shrinivas R.
Defense Date:15 May 2015
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05292015-134454898
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8925
Deposited By: Adam Waszczak
Deposited On:10 Jun 2015 13:56
Last Modified:10 Mar 2020 22:53

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