The Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) Program
January 1, 1998
Lincoln Laboratory has been developing electro-optical space-surveillance technology to detect, characterize, and catalog satellites for more than forty years. Recent advances in highly sensitive, large-format charge-coupled devices (CCDs) allow this technology to be applied to detecting and cataloging asteroids, including near-Earth objects (NEOs). When equipped with a new Lincoln Laboratory focal-plane camera and signal processing technology, the 1-m U.S. Air Force ground-based electro-optical deep-space surveillance (GEODSS) telescopes can conduct sensitive large-coverage searches for Earth-crossing and main-belt asteroids. Field measurements indicate that these enhanced telescopes can achieve a limiting magnitude of 22 over a 2-deg2 field of view with less than 100 sec of integration. This sensitivity rivals that of much larger telescopes equipped with commercial cameras. Working two years under U.S. Air Force sponsorship, we have developed technology for asteroid search operations at the Lincoln Laboratory Experimental Test Site near Socorro, New Mexico. By using a new large-format 2560 X 1960-pixel frame-transfer CCD camera, we have discovered over 10,000 asteroids, including 53 NEOs and 4 comets as designated by the Minor Planet Center (MPC). In March 1998, the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program provided over 150,000 observations of asteroids--nearly 90% of the world's asteroid observations that month--to the MPC, which resulted in the discovery of 13 NEOs and 1 comet. The MPC indicates that the LINEAR program outperforms all asteroid search programs operated to date.