An Analysis of the Statistics of the HST Kuiper Belt Object Search
M.E. Brown, S.R. Kulkarni (Caltech), T.J. Liggett (Harvey Mudd College)
We calculate statistical limits to the detection of Kuiper Belt Objects in the HST data of Cochran et al. (1995) in which they report the discovery of a population of Halley-sized objects. Detection of a population of faint objects in these data is limited by the number of false objects that appear due only to random noise; the number of real objects must exceed the uncertainty in the number of these false objects for the population to be observable. We determine the number of false objects expected due to random noise in the data of Cochran et al. by measuring the pixel-to-pixel noise level in the raw HST data and propagating this noise through the detection method employed by Cochran et al. We find that the uncertainty in the number of false objects exceeds by two orders of magnitude the reported number of detected objects by Cochran et al. The detection of such a population of Halley-sized Kuiper Belt Objects with these data is therefore not possible.