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JPL’s Scout linking algorithm

Presentation #405.11 in the session Asteroids: Planetary Defense (Poster + Lightning Talk)

Published onOct 23, 2023
JPL’s Scout linking algorithm

The Minor Planet Center’s (MPC) Near-Earth Object Confirmation Page (NEOCP) consists of recent observations that potentially belong to candidate near-Earth object discoveries. JPL’s Scout system (Farnocchia et al., 2016) continually monitors the NEOCP and provides trajectory and impact hazard analysis for each object. Occasionally observational tracklets belonging to the same object might be reported as separate objects if the linkage between them is not identified prior to posting on the NEOCP. Identifying such cases is important for increasing the observational data-arc, improving the accuracy of orbits and impact predictions, and facilitating follow-up observations. Scout continually monitors for such cases by attempting to link all possible pairs of NEOCP object. Since the orbits of newly discovered objects are not initially known, the Scout system uses systematic ranging for initial orbit determination (Farnocchia et al. 2015) and generates a grid of possible orbits for each object on the NEOCP. During this stage, Scout attempts to identify objects having similar orbits within their grid. If a match is identified, Scout attempts to fit that orbit across all the observations associated with the matching orbits. As more observations become available for an object, the grid of orbits collapses to a single best-fit orbit. During this stage, Scout attempts to fit that orbit by combining the observations associated with that orbit with observations belonging to other objects on the NEOCP. If a good fit is found, the potential linkage between the objects is reported to the MPC. We will report statistics on the Scout linking performance and discuss some of the most interesting cases, e.g., 2018 UA, which made a close approach within 14,000 of the geocenter shortly after discovery.

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