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Next Generation Ground-Based Planetary Radar Science at NRAO

Presentation #211.09 in the session We Know the Way: Future Missions, Instruments, Facilities (iPosters).

Published onOct 20, 2022
Next Generation Ground-Based Planetary Radar Science at NRAO

Advances in astronomical radar technology are paving the way for next generation ground-based planetary radar capabilities at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). NRAO and Green Bank Observatory are working with industry partner Raytheon Intelligence & Space to develop a high-power (500 kW), Ku-band radar system on the 100-m Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) to meet the planetary-science goals for a next generation planetary radar system. The next generation planetary radar capabilities using GBO and NRAO facilities are seeking to enhance detection and imaging of solid bodies in the Solar System, including small bodies (near-Earth asteroids, main-belt asteroids, comets, interstellar objects) when in range, our Moon, the terrestrial planets (with exception of Venus), moons orbiting other planets, and potentially planetary debris. A pilot study in late 2020 and early 2021 used a low-power (700 W) transmitter operating at Ku band (13.9 GHz) on the GBT and elements of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to receive the echoes. These observations provided very compelling results, including the highest-resolution radar images of the Moon ever taken from the ground, with resolution of order one meter, as well as detection of near-Earth asteroid (231937) 2001 FO32 at more than five lunar distances from Earth (more than 2 million km). Future system expansion will leverage the next generation Very Large Array (ngVLA), a decadal priority for astronomy and astrophysics, for receiving. This system would expand ground-based planetary radar capabilities, provide redundancy to the Goldstone Solar System Radar, and help fill the void left by the loss of the Arecibo Observatory planetary radar system. We will discuss the science goals, the status of the design concept, and our future plans for a multi-static planetary radar system using GBT and NRAO facilities.

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