We report the methods of and initial scientific inferences from the extraction of precision photometric information for the >800 trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) discovered in the images of the Dark Energy Survey (DES). Scene-modeling photometry is used to obtain shot-noise-limited flux measures for each exposure of each TNO, with background sources subtracted. Comparison of double-source fits to the pixel data with single-source fits are used to identify and characterize two binary TNO systems. A Markov Chain Monte Carlo method samples the joint likelihood of the intrinsic colors of each source as well as the amplitude of its flux variation, given the time series of multiband flux measurements and their uncertainties. A catalog of these colors and light-curve amplitudes A is included with this publication. We show how to assign a likelihood to the distribution q(A) of light-curve amplitudes in any subpopulation. Using this method, we find decisive evidence (i.e., evidence ratio <0.01) that cold classical (CC) TNOs with absolute magnitude 6 < H r < 8.2 are more variable than the hot classical (HC) population of the same H r , reinforcing theories that the former form in situ and the latter arise from a different physical population. Resonant and scattering TNOs in this H r range have variability consistent with either the HCs or CCs. DES TNOs with H r < 6 are seen to be decisively less variable than higher-H r members of any dynamical group, as expected. More surprising is that detached TNOs are decisively less variable than scattering TNOs, which requires them to have distinct source regions or some subsequent differential processing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Number of pages17
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number1
Early online date31 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


  • UKRI
  • STFC

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