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Bridging Discoveries and Collaboration: Catalina Sky Survey’s NEO Survey, Follow-up, and Community Projects

Presentation #405.08 in the session Asteroids: Planetary Defense (Poster + Lightning Talk)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Bridging Discoveries and Collaboration: Catalina Sky Survey’s NEO Survey, Follow-up, and Community Projects

The Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) has been a leader in discovering NEOs for over two decades. While we continue our accelerating rate of discovery, recent work by the team has also focused on greater coordination and public outreach. I will present an overview of our survey and follow-up operations along with our community focused projects: NEOfixer, The Daily Minor Planet, and our public archive of images and data products.

CSS is at its core a NEO survey with two full-time survey telescopes (G96 + 703) and a part-time survey telescope, V00, operated jointly with Spacewatch and the University of Minnesota. CSS surveys account for around 44% of all annual NEO discoveries across the last several years.

CSS also currently operates the most productive NEO follow-up project, accounting for almost half of all NASA-sponsored follow-up observations from 2020 – 2022. CSS operates one full-time follow-up telescope, I52, and one part-time telescope, V06.

To facilitate more community coordination of follow-up observations, CSS has developed NEOfixer, a publicly available targeting broker with the goal of finding the best follow-up targets and sharing target selections by observatories across the globe. More information about the NEOfixer system can be found in the presentation by CSS’s principal engineer, Alex Gibbs.

Most recently, CSS has launched the citizen science project, “The Daily Minor Planet”. This project hosts recent and archival survey images and has volunteers discriminate real asteroids from false detections. DMP has already identified over a dozen NEO candidates and over 200 main belt asteroids in it’s first two months of operation. This project enables a deeper search through otherwise un-validated moving object candidates.

Nightly images and associated data products have been submitted nightly to the Planetary Data System’s Small Bodies Node since the night of January 20th, 2022. We are currently working on uploading older archival data while simultaneously re-processing the data with our latest moving object detection software.

CSS has established itself as a global leader in NEO discovery over the past two decades. While maintaining an impressive rate of discovery, CSS has also recognized the significance of collaboration and outreach. Our survey and follow-up operations, complemented by community-oriented initiatives like NEOfixer, The Daily Minor Planet, and our public archive, showcase our commitment to fostering engagement and will serve the goal of planetary defense while also enhancing research in planetary science. CSS acknowledges continued support from NASA under grant #80NSSC18K1130.

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