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NEO Surveyor: Significant progress towards the Congressional mandate

Presentation #303.03 in the session “Planetary Defense: Avenging the Dinosaurs”.

Published onOct 03, 2021
NEO Surveyor: Significant progress towards the Congressional mandate

With more than 26,000 known Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) cataloged, amateurs and professional astronomers have made some progress towards the congressional George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act (Section 321 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005; Public Law No. 109-155), which mandate cataloging and tracking 90% of the NEAs larger than 140m before. But much work remains. With an estimated 25,000 NEAs larger than 140m (Mainzer et al. 2011), only ~35% of this population has currently been cataloged. Wright et al. (2016) showed that in order to ensure that 90% of objects larger than 140m are cataloged, 90% of objects with absolute magnitude (H) brighter than H = 23 needs to be cataloged. Using estimates of the population of objects with H <23 from Harris et al. (2015) and the current discovery rate of ~800 asteroids per year, it would take half a century to reach the congressional mandate with the current dedicated NEA surveys. Here, we will discuss how the Near Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor mission will significantly accelerate the progress towards this goal. Scheduled to be launched in 2026, NEO Surveyor will discover, catalog, track and characterize an estimated ~50,000 new NEOs per year during its 5 year planned mission, with the goal of cataloging 2/3 of the potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) larger than 140m. We will present the latest simulations of the NEO Surveyor performance in cataloging the NEA population and how the mission, together with the Rubin Observatory, could reach the congressional mandate within ~10 years of operation.

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