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Published September 1, 2014 | Published + Submitted
Journal Article Open

Detection of a Faint Fast-moving Near-Earth Asteroid Using the Synthetic Tracking Technique


We report a detection of a faint near-Earth asteroid (NEA) using our synthetic tracking technique and the CHIMERA instrument on the Palomar 200 inch telescope. With an apparent magnitude of 23 (H = 29, assuming detection at 20 lunar distances), the asteroid was moving at 6º.32 day^(–1) and was detected at a signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) of 15 using 30 s of data taken at a 16.7 Hz frame rate. The detection was confirmed by a second observation 77 minutes later at the same S/N. Because of its high proper motion, the NEA moved 7 arcsec over the 30 s of observation. Synthetic tracking avoided image degradation due to trailing loss that affects conventional techniques relying on 30 s exposures; the trailing loss would have degraded the surface brightness of the NEA image on the CCD down to an approximate magnitude of 25 making the object undetectable. This detection was a result of our 12 hr blind search conducted on the Palomar 200 inch telescope over two nights, scanning twice over six (5º.3 × 0º.046) fields. Detecting only one asteroid is consistent with Harris's estimates for the distribution of the asteroid population, which was used to predict a detection of 1.2 NEAs in the H-magnitude range 28-31 for the two nights. The experimental design, data analysis methods, and algorithms are presented. We also demonstrate milliarcsecond-level astrometry using observations of two known bright asteroids on the same system with synthetic tracking. We conclude by discussing strategies for scheduling observations to detect and characterize small and fast-moving NEAs using the new technique.

Additional Information

© 2014 American Astronomical Society. Received 2014 March 18; accepted 2014 July 7; published 2014 August 14. The authors thank Stuart Shaklan and William Owen of JPL for useful discussions, and Eric Cady, also of JPL, for editing the manuscript. We also appreciate very valuable suggestions from the anonymous referee for improving the manuscript. This work is based on observations obtained at theHale Telescope, Palomar Observatory as part of a continuing collaboration between the California Institute of Technology, NASA/JPL, NOAO, Oxford University, Stony Brook University, and the National Astronomical Observatories of China. We thank the staff at Palomar Observatory for providing support during our many observation runs, including Bruce Baker, Mike Doyle, Jamey Eriksen, Carolyn Heffner, John Henning, Steven Kunsman, Dan McKenna, Jean Mueller, Kajsa Peffer, Kevin Rykoski, and Greg van Idsinga. The work described here was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Published - 0004-637X_792_1_60.pdf

Submitted - 1403.4353v1.pdf


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August 22, 2023
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