Abstract by Nathan Benfell

Personal Infomation

Presenter's Name

Nathan Benfell

Degree Level


Abstract Infomation


Physics and Astronomy

Faculty Advisor

Darin Ragozzine


Backwards Integration as a Method of Family Finding in the Outer Solar System


The solar system is filled with collisional families, each consisting of several objects all generated though a single historical collision. There are hundreds of known familes in the asteroid belt, but only one known family in the Kuiper Belt (an icy, rocky region beyond Neptune). The age of young asteroid collisional families is often determined by using reversed simulations (i.e. backwards integration) of the solar system. This method is not used for discovering young asteroid families and is limited by unpredictable factors unique to the Asteroid Belt (e.g. the Yarkovsky Effect). The Kuiper Belt is absent of these unpredictabilities, and thus we theorized that backwards integrations could be an advantageous method for both Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) family finding and characterization. Such integrations are ambitious and would require high accuracy over long timescales (~billions of years). I share what we have learned so far about running such integrations, and the potential for the near-term discovery of new families using backwards integration.