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Spacewatch NEO Targeted Astrometric Follow-Up

Presentation #212.07 in the session MBAs: Physical Characteristics (iPosters).

Published onOct 20, 2022
Spacewatch NEO Targeted Astrometric Follow-Up

In 2022, SPACEWATCH(R) is celebrating 40 years of the agreement with Steward Observatory to use the historic 36-inch telescope on Iolkam Du'ag (Kitt Peak) in the Tohono O'odham Nation. Spacewatch began as a dedicated survey to find small solar system bodies, transitioning to near-Earth objects (NEOs), then full-time targeted NEO follow-up. From May 1984 to mid-June 2022, from the 0.9m telescope, 1.8m telescope, and the Steward Observatory Bok 2.3m telescope on Kitt Peak, the MPC accepted from Spacewatch 15,108,886 lines of astrometry, 148,278 of which are of NEOs, 93,483 are of NEOs with H≤22 that fall under the 2005 Congressional mandate to discover and track 90% of NEOs ≥140m by 2020, 34,227 are of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs), 1807 of PHAs with V≥22.5. We also made 10,357 comet astrometric measurements.

In 2019, we began collaborating on the Bok NEO Survey with the Catalina Sky Survey and the University of Minnesota. This survey uses 90Prime on the 2.3m to search for NEOs and Earth Trojans. So far, it has 668,362 MPC-accepted astrometric records, including 3,527 of NEOs, 1,777 of NEOs with H≤22. According to the SBN’s MPEC Watch, this prolific survey is one of the top 10 ten NEO discoverers over the past 5 years.

We observe NEOs 24 nights per lunation with the 1.8m and 0.9m, weather permitting. We have competitive time on the 2.3m with the Spacewatch Cassegrain Camera and 90Prime and a target-of-opportunity program for virtual impactors (VIs) using the CTIO, MMT, Gemini, and Keck telescopes. Our targeted follow-up focuses on VIs, objects on the MPC NEO Confirmation Page, PHAs approaching ≤0.03au from Earth within 40 years, NEODyS-2 priority and faint priority NEAs, NEAs observed by NEOWISE, potential targets of planetary radar and spacecraft missions, and candidates for the Yarkovsky effect.

We will discuss operational improvements, astrometric output, and progress toward our new mosaic camera for the 2.3m, all funded by a NASA YORPD grant. See C. Lejoly’s presentation on Spacewatch NEA lightcurve work funded by the Brinson Foundation of Chicago.

On July 26, recovery is underway from the 29,482-acre Contreras wildfire after lightning struck the Baboquivari mountains on June 11. The fire overran the Arizona Radio Observatory and the MDM Observatory. Reportedly all science structures on Kitt Peak, including ours, are intact. Ash clean-up is expected to continue into fall.

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