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The Population of Interstellar Objects Detectable with the LSST and Accessible for In-Situ Rendezvous with Various Mission Designs

Presentation #431.05 in the session The Sun and Solar System III.

Published onJun 29, 2022
The Population of Interstellar Objects Detectable with the LSST and Accessible for In-Situ Rendezvous with Various Mission Designs

The recently discovered population of interstellar objects presents us with the opportunity to characterize material from extrasolar planetary and stellar systems up close. The forthcoming Vera C. Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) will provide an unprecedented increase in sensitivity to these objects compared to the capabilities of currently operational observational facilities. We generate a synthetic population of `Oumuamua-like objects drawn from their galactic kinematics, and identify the distribution of impact parameters, eccentricities, hyperbolic velocities and sky locations of objects detectable with the LSST, assuming no cometary activity. This population is characterized by a clustering of trajectories in the direction of the solar apex and anti-apex, centered at orbital inclinations of ~90°. We identify the ecliptic or solar apex as the optimal sky locations to search for future interstellar objects as a function of survey limiting magnitude. Moreover, we identify the trajectories of detectable objects that will be reachable for in-situ rendezvous with a dedicated mission with the capabilities of the forthcoming Comet Interceptor or proposed Bridge concept. By scaling our fractional population statistics with the inferred spatial number density, we estimate that the LSST will detect of order ~15 interstellar objects over the course of its ~10 year observational campaign. Furthermore, we find that there should be ~1-3 and ~0.0007-0.001 reachable targets for missions with propulsion capabilities comparable to Bridge and Comet Interceptor, respectively. These numbers are lower limits, and will be readily updateable when the number density and size frequency distribution of interstellar objects are better constrained.

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