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Hubble Asteroid Hunter: Finding Asteroids in HST Archival Images and Analysing their Absolute Magnitude Cumulative Distribution.

Presentation #113.01 in the session Asteroids: Observational Surveys (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Hubble Asteroid Hunter: Finding Asteroids in HST Archival Images and Analysing their Absolute Magnitude Cumulative Distribution.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) archive hides many unexpected treasures, such as asteroid trails serendipitously imaged by HST during its tireless and prolific scientific career. We have combined the power of a citizen science project with a machine learning algorithm to identify 1,701 asteroid trails from the whole HST archive (almost 20 years for the two considered instruments). 1,031 of them do not match any entries in the MPC database, being potential unknown asteroids.

Asteroids appear as curved trails in HST images due to parallax induced by the fast orbital motion of the spacecraft. Taking into account its trajectory, this effect can be computed to obtain the distance to the asteroids. Using distance, we can obtain the object’s absolute magnitude and size estimation assuming an albedo value, along with some boundaries for its orbital parameters.

After an accuracy assessment and filtering process, we selected 472 asteroids (333 unknown and 149 known objects) as meaningful results from our parallax analysis. We obtain a sample dominated by potential Main Belt objects featuring absolute magnitudes (H) mostly between 15 and 22 mag. The absolute magnitude cumulative distribution confirms the previously reported slope change for 15 < H < 18, from α ≈ 0.54 to α ≈ 0.26, maintained in our case down to absolute magnitudes around H ≈ 20, hence expanding previous results by approximately two magnitudes.

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