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Night Sky Brightness Variations and Asteroid Detection

Presentation #404.04 in the session Asteroids: Observational Surveys (Poster)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Night Sky Brightness Variations and Asteroid Detection

A detailed knowledge of night sky brightness variations is essential to guide the detection, discovery, and followup of faint fast moving asteroids. Data are collected and analyzed from SQM-LU-DL night sky meters, CCD cameras as they are being operated for asteroid surveying and followup by CSS (Catalina Sky Survey) telescopes, and all sky cloud and weather cameras. Sources of night sky brightness variations include the Moon, natural airglow, and anthropogenic sources. We have begun by concentrating on data collected under cloud free astronomically dark conditions. We have developed algorithms to select clear sky data using the smoothness of SQM data traces and the number of stars detected on CCD images. We find that natural night sky airglow is rarely if ever constant in brightness often showing changes from 0.2 to 0.6 mag/arcsec2 during the night. The primary driver of these changes are interactions between the solar wind and Earth’s magnetosphere. Often these events reveal themselves by increased brightness, as measured by SQMs, and in some instances by waves in airglow, seen on all sky cameras, with amplitudes whose brightness is greater than that of the Milky Way. The anthropogenic component of the Tucson light dome declines regularly by 0.4 mag/arcsec2 during the night. Preliminary examples of our data, its analysis, and future directions are presented.

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