neos and the minor planet center in the next generation of surveys
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NEOs and the Minor Planet Center in the Next Generation of Surveys. Dr. Tim Spahr (SAO, NASA, MPC…). Outline, background, and info. MPC staff and duties Current operation of the MPC and data volume Specific tools and programs for NEOs NEO coordination

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neos and the minor planet center in the next generation of surveys

NEOs and the Minor Planet Center in the Next Generation of Surveys

Dr. Tim Spahr (SAO, NASA, MPC…)

outline background and info
Outline, background, and info
  • MPC staff and duties
  • Current operation of the MPC and data volume
  • Specific tools and programs for NEOs
  • NEO coordination
  • Operation in the next generation of surveys
mpc staff
MPC staff
  • Tim Spahr
    • Background in celestial mechanics
    • Former software specialist/observer for Catalina program
    • 19+ years observing (that’s ½ of my life)
    • Been involved with solar system science since 1991
    • Hobbies:
mpc staff1
MPC staff
  • Gareth Williams
    • MPC staffer since 1991
    • Computing orbits and identifications since 1980 (!!)
    • Expert in initial orbit determination
    • VMS/FORTRAN expert
    • Set tech for Arlington Friends of the Drama
mpc staff2
MPC staff
  • Brian Marsden
    • He is a living legend.
    • Computing orbits and identifications since 1960s
    • Expert in initial orbit determination theory
    • Specializes in comet/TNO orbit determination
    • Still writes algorithms we use today
    • Loves politics and the spotlight!
mpc staff future
MPC staff (future)

We will be hiring 2 (TWO) more staffers within the next few months

  • A UNIX/LINUX programmer with VMS and orbit determination experience (possibly Mike Rudenko)
  • Astronomer with experience in observing and orbit determination (someone like Carl Hergenrother, or perhaps simply Carl!)
current operation of the mpc
Current operation of the MPC
  • The duty of the MPC is to process and publish every single positional measurement made, worldwide, of asteroids, comets, and outer satellites of the Jovian planets.
    • Yes, I said *EVERY SINGLE*
    • Current database of 59,000,000 observations
    • 435,000+ objects
    • Don’t forget 2-night objects (no orbit) and single-night observation file (another 10,000,000 observations)
what are standard ops
What are standard ops?
  • Most observations (> 99%) arrive as unidentified tracklets (2+ positions and times)
  • MPC identifies objects with known objects, or decides the objects are new
  • All orbits of identified objects are improved daily (6-d differential correction including perturbations)
  • New objects linked with other new objects
  • Short-arc orbits linked to other objects for better arcs
current mpc ops
Current MPC ops
  • All orbits changed/updated are published daily
  • NEOs are turned around in < 24 h
  • Comets more or less weekly
  • Everything else weekly
  • Current NEO database ~5800 objects
  • ~937 NEOs H < 18
  • ~1020 NEOs H < 18.2
  • Note not all NEOs announce themselves! So we must process *everything* quickly.

Clearly, there is a lot of automation in MPC processes now

--most routine (non-NEO) survey data handled automatically

--relatively little comet and TNO (distant object) data handled automatically

--a bit of care when giving new designations for non NEOs

neo automation
NEO automation
  • Incoming batches automatically checked for known NEOs
  • Sender also has the option of alerting the MPC to potential NEOs
  • Routine NEO observations published, automatically, every night
  • JPL uses these for long-term impact monitoring.
what about new neos
What about new NEOs??
  • All incoming batches from surveys labeled ‘NEO’ are checked for potential NEOs
  • NEO probability code!!
    • Hybrid code from McNaught, Hergenrother, Jedicke, Marsden, Spahr, Keys, and Williams
  • New possible NEOs (those scoring > 50%) posted on the web
  • We also scan for NEOs hiding among the routine objects
posting updating neocp
Posting/updating NEOCP
  • The NEOCP posting is automatic if NEO score > 50%
  • NEOCP updating is 95% automatic
  • Great advantage over past practice! 24/7/365 operation allows new NEOs, worldwide, to be discovered, to alert the public, and to have them follow-up upon within *minutes*
  • Observations and orbits publicly available
  • Variant orbits generated using first and last observation, and Marsden’s 1996 procedure
  • Orbits are weighted by likelihood assuming a form similar to what we observe + predicted by Bottke 2002.
  • Added RMS flag/weighting
  • Uncertainty maps coded with de-facto likelihood based on density of points
  • Distance color-coded in points
details continued
  • NEO probability code publicly available!
  • Transportable, updatable, flexible
  • Bottom line, these methods apply now and far into the future
  • NOTE—the probability code is far, far from perfect. But it is just better than anything else out there right now.
current computing capacity
Current computing capacity
  • The MPC is no longer limited by computing capacity
  • 8+ high-speed VMS nodes, capable of tens of thousands of orbit improvements per day
  • Gareth programs in LINUX and has access to 1000+ node supercluster run by SI. MPC is also purchasing nodes for this monster
  • Capable of computing a few TENS OF MILLIONS of orbits per day. Game over.
mpc pan starrs info
  • Spahr and Williams have been working with Pan-STARRS for the last 6 and 3 years, respectively.
  • Well aware of processing needs.
  • To make the point bluntly, the MPC can handle Pan-STARRS data right now. It is not a matter of a transition, it is simply business as usual. Dramatic upgrades and improvements over the past 2 years allow bulk processing of large batches
more info next generation
More info/next generation
  • Modernization and documentation of methods and processes is essential and will take some time and effort.
  • Re-tooling of a couple of beastly pieces of code, namely the differential correction routine and the potential map of the solar system (for integration/propagation routines). Note that this requires general relativity, ability to handle spacecraft data, radar data… trust me when I say it will take some time!
more info next generation1
More info/next generation
  • In the past, too many “slightly manual” operations to operate in the Pan-STARRS, LSST era.
  • As the programmers in the room know, 95% of the job is done in 5% of the time. The other 5% of the job (the hard part) takes 95% of the time. Ouch. This is where we are now.
  • And it is why we need a couple more bodies at the Center.
pan starrs ops
Pan-STARRS ops
  • Pan-STARRS will be providing most data (if not all) in batches of properly-linked 2+ night detections.
  • This simplifies MPC ops greatly, as we spend a lot of time now on single-night detections and verification of links
  • Problems then shift to distribution of data and ease of access, and hence the need for a good relational database
pan starrs ops cont d
Pan-STARRS ops cont’d
  • Pan-STARRS will be doing minimal ‘out of survey’ links and identifications.
  • They intend to use the MPC for this work.
  • Key point here: for the next 3+ years, operations at the MPC must continue at or above present levels. Hence our push to expand staff (successful) and to transition the software (successful and in progress right now)
pan starrs ops cont d1
Pan-STARRS ops cont’d
  • Pan-STARRS might be producing some possible NEOs on only 2 nights of data
  • If this is the case, the MPC is happy to assist by allowing these objects to be posted on the NEOCP.
  • Details of this still being worked out.
2008 tc3 the first predicted impactor
2008 TC3, the first predicted impactor
  • On the evening of Oct 5, 2008, CSS discovered an NEO
  • Follow-up observations obtained during the night allowed the MPC to predict an impact of this object with the Earth some 19 hours after discovery.
  • Great illustration of how well the system can work, and does work
2008 tc3
2008 TC3
  • The MPC has an alert system monitoring all NEOCP orbits for close approaches
  • While we have e-mail alerts, I also get a text message on my cell!! Modernization at the finest!
  • Keep in mind Pan-STARRS is not capable of finding objects of this type due to the survey candence. Should warn on larger objects, though.
  • MPC has the staff, and funding, to tackle the next generation of NEO surveys.
  • Main challenge is transitioning software to modern OS and database structure
  • The MPC is already involved with Pan-STARRS
  • MPC maintains and improves other operations daily