Kuiper Belt Occultation Predictions
Here we present observations of seven large Kuiper Belt objects. From these observations, we extract a point source catalog with similar to 0.01" precision, and astrometry of our target Kuiper Belt objects with 0.04-0.08" precision within that catalog. We have developed a new technique to predict the future occurrence of stellar occultations by Kuiper Belt objects. The technique makes use of a maximum likelihood approach which determines the best-fit adjustment to cataloged orbital elements of an object. Using simulations of a theoretical object, we discuss the merits and weaknesses of this technique compared to the commonly adopted ephemeris offset approach. We demonstrate that both methods suffer from separate weaknesses, and thus together provide a fair assessment of the true uncertainty in a particular prediction. We present occultation predictions made by both methods for the seven tracked objects, with dates as late as 2015. Finally, we discuss observations of three separate close passages of Quaoar to field stars, which reveal the accuracy of the element adjustment approach, and which also demonstrate the necessity of considering the uncertainty in stellar position when assessing potential occultations.