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Discovering and Characterizing NEAs from the Southern Hemisphere Asteroid Observation Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop Lunar and Planetary Institute Houston, Texas 30 September 2013. Douglas Walker. Background/Partnerships Problem S tatement Proposed Solution Approaches Summary.

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Discovering and Characterizing NEAs from the Southern HemisphereAsteroid ObservationAsteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis WorkshopLunar and Planetary InstituteHouston, Texas30 September 2013

Douglas Walker


Problem Statement

Proposed Solution Approaches



University of Canterbury (UC) – Christchurch, New Zealand


US Partnerships

Qwaltec, Inc.


  • Engineering

43o59.2’ S

170o27.9’ E

  • University of Arizona

  • Imaging Technology Laboratory

Problem – Known Set of NEAs Insufficient for ARM

  • Asteroid Return Mission (27<H<31)

    • ~14 meet ARM criteria, ~15 expected (Chodas)

    • 3 potential ARRM candidates ( Sept 11th)

  • Potentially Hazardous Asteroids

    • 1000m to 100m (17.5<H<22.5): 19,500

    • <100m: (Chelyabinsk event) >1 million?

=> 7.3 x 106 ARM candidate targets

Chodas, Harris 2013

Problem – Known Set of NEAs Insufficient for ARM

  • Contributing Problem - Southern Hemisphere Gap

    • With loss of Siding Spring, no SH observatory dedicated to asteroid detection and follow-up (Chodas, Session 2 Target NEO)

    • Up to 40% of NEAs could go undetected (Treister, U of Concepcion)

    • Southern hole through which asteroids approach unseen (ATLAS website)

Timothy Spahr, MPC

Schunova, IforA, UofH

Proposed Solution Approaches

Three prong approach:





Image Longer – Additional Observing

  • Current Capability at Mt John Observatory

    • Ad hoc follow-up observations for past 20+ yrs(Gilmore and Kilmartin)

    • Example: 2 Sept 2013, recovery of 2013 RG (then UR80342) 3.4 hrs after discovery at Mt Lemmon, Arizona. H = 29.4, 2-7m, Vmag = 19.0

  • Proposed Solutions

  • Near Term - Support ARRM scheduled launch in 2017-18

    • Increase observing time on current telescope systems

    • Upgrade imaging systems with commercial cameras and/or custom detectors

    • Install ATLAS at Mt John Observatory site (2015 timeframe)

    • Longer term

    • Install Pan-STARRS system

Near Term

  • Increased Observing Time – Detection & Follow-up

    • Increase shared use of 1m telescope for new detections and 0.6m for follow-up

    • Possible shared use of 1.8 m telescope

  • Install ATLAS System (2015)

    • ATLAS are all likely to detect multiple objects/year in the ARRM size range (Session 3 Summary Target NEO 2)

    • MJ Observatory site easily handle ATLAS footprint

  • Camera Upgrades

    • Commercial: Apogee U6 camera to Apogee Alta F43/F4320

    • Custom: University of Arizona ITL

      • Specialized detector + camera build out

      • UofAITL + UC Engineering

    • Detectors tailored to provide precise response curves

Longer Term

  • Consider Pan-STARRS System (>2016)

    • Provide full SH survey

    • Complete global coverage network

  • Approach

    • Implement current designs and support systems

    • Focus on construction and strict cost control (build to print)

  • Continuing Operations

    • Integrate into Pan-STARRS 4 network

    • UC joins PS Science Consortium

Pro-Am Collaborations

Amateurs have proven record of contributing to discovery and follow-up

Proposed Solution– Leverage RASNZ MicroFUN Network for Asteroid Rapid Response (recruitment, training, support)

Provide follow-up observing across New Zealand/Australia/SP rim

UC College of Science Outreach is Implementation/Project Management

RASNZ members are advanced amateurs in exoplanets, variable stars

Web-based Alert System – Qwaltec, Inc.

Develop tools and HMIs for interfaces into existing databases

Develop training material and reference documentation

Image Wider – Involve Others

“Little time for characterization after discovery!” (Schunova 2013)

Image Deeper – Image at Fainter Magnitudes

Image Deeper – Image at Fainter Magnitudes


  • Close the Southern Hemisphere gap!

  • Energize amateurs!

  • Exploit current imagery!

  • Options

    • Additional time Mt. John: increased recovery and follow-up

    • Camera upgrades: increase FOVs and sensitivity

    • ATLAS south: new detections

    • Pro-Am collaborations: critical follow-up observations

    • Algorithms: increased depth detection for new detections

  • Work of UC and Mt John Observatory could potentially increase ARM list by ~ 4-5 new candidates

  • UC has the Knowledge and Experience to help!

Backups – No South Hemisphere Facilities are Planned

Current Options for Increasing the ARM Candidate Discovery Rate




Backups – Assets All Located in North Hemisphere

Sparse coverage below 400 south latitude

ATLAS nightly coverage

PS2 nightly coverage

Backups – Assets All Located in North Hemisphere

  • International Asteroid Warning Network

    • To discover, monitor, and physically characterize the potentially hazardous NEO population using optical and radar facilities and other assets based in both the northern and southern hemispheres and in space

    • Current Coverage

Sparse Coverage

Timothy Spahr, MPC

Backups – Mt John Observatory

  • Facilities at Mt John Observatory

    • Located at Lake Tekapo, south island New Zealand

    • Located within Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve

  • Four Principle Telescopes

    • The 1-meter McLellan Telescope

    • The MOA 1.8-meter Telescope

    • The 0.6-meter Optical Craftsmen Telescope

    • The 0.6-meter Boller & Chivens Telescope

Backups – Observatory Site Real Estate

Location: 43o59.2’ S

170o27.9’ E

Backups– Need for Robust Follow-up

Findings from Target NEO 2 Workshop

  • Detailed Findings: Target Detection and Characterization

    • The set of potential targets for ARRM is not yet robust. Additional targets are needed to ensure that a good subset meet mission selection criteria for size, spin state, and orbit, and to provide viable backup launch opportunities. Ground-based assets offer the only realistic opportunity to substantially increase the number of candidates within the current development schedule of a launch in 2017-18. Planned observatory upgrades/additions need to be realized.

    • A Discovery-class infrared space-based observatory (e.g., NEOCam or Sentinel) may make significant contributions to the number of candidate targets; however, such an asset could not achieve operational status until at least 2018.

    • Follow-up observations to refine target orbits and to characterize size, mass, and spin state are critical to lower the uncertainty of these parameters for mission design, and need a more deterministic approach. Follow-up visible, IR and radar observations are mandatory to reduce trajectory, size, mass, and spin state uncertainty in potential targets.

    • The current follow-up approach is too ad hoc; stronger follow-up procedures with identified assets are needed.

  • Uncertainties in the ARRM target population and the difficulty in discovering viable targets that can be fully characterized translates to significant schedule risk. It is not clear that a robust target set can be generated to meet the current ARRM schedule of a launch in 2017-18.

  • There is a distinct possibility that some small, rapidly rotating asteroids may be rubble piles. For such objects, the forces holding them together may be quite small. Interaction with such an object during capture may represent a risk.

  • 7/24/2013 5 Target NEO 2 - Executive Summary

Amateurs can play an important role in characterization of ARM candidates but response window is short

Backups – Amateur Network

Eva Schunova, Robert Jedicke with Peter Veres & Larry Denneau

Institute for Astronomy

University of Hawaii at Manoa


UC Science Outreach ARM candidates but response window is short

Backups – Amateur Network

Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand & MicroFUN Network ARM candidates but response window is short

Backups – Amateur Network

Backups – ARM candidates but response window is shortImage Fainter Magnitudes