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Spacewatch Near-Earth Asteroid Astrometric Follow-Up

Presentation #404.06 in the session Asteroids: Observational Surveys (Poster + Lightning Talk)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Spacewatch Near-Earth Asteroid Astrometric Follow-Up

Spacewatch continues its consistent and long-term effort to enhance planetary defense by performing astrometry of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) with a focus on those most likely to pose a threat to Earth. With rapid response capabilities, we observe virtual impactors (VIs), Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs), and targets on the Minor Planet Center’s Near-Earth Object Confirmation page (NEOCPs). These three categories are our highest priority because VIs and PHAs have the greatest potential to be hazardous to Earth and because NEOCPs require rapid follow-up observations to be officially confirmed before becoming lost. We also prioritize candidates for detection of the Yarkovsky Effect, NEAs on the NEODyS Priority and Faint Priority lists, potential targets of planetary radar, NEAs observed by WISE and the NEOWISE mission, NEAs that will approach within 0.03au of Earth within 40 years, and NEAs listed on JPL’s NHATS webpage. We use the LPL Spacewatch 1.8m telescope (MPC code 291) and Steward Observatory 0.9m telescope (691) on Kitt Peak, Arizona in the Tohono O’odham Nation. We also have ~1 week/month on Steward’s Bok 2.3m telescope (D695). We lead US-based astrometric follow-up programs in number of unique PHAs observed and measurements of faint PHAs (V > 22.5). Since fall 2019, while operational, we targeted a monthly average of 759 NEOs, submitting an average of 1200 astrometric measurements of 200 unique NEOs, including 24 PHAs. We prioritize faint objects requiring longer exposure times, leading to fewer total NEOs observed. In the fall of 2019, we began collaborating with the Catalina Sky Survey and the University of Minnesota as the Bok NEO Survey (V00). We use 90Prime on the Bok 2.3m to discover faint and large NEOs more than a magnitude fainter than other major ground-based surveys. According to the PDS Small Bodies Node MPEC Watch webpage, after only 3.5 years in operation, V00 has the 4th highest number of discovery Minor Planet Electronic Circular (MPEC) publications in the past year, is 5th over five years, and 10th over “all time” (1993-09-19 to 2023-07-12). 291 is 5th of top MPEC contributors, 5th in Follow-up MPECs, and 3rd in First Follow-up MPECs over “all time.” 691 is 6th in discovery MPECs and 7th in precovery MPECs over “all time.”

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