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Shining light on thermophysical Near-Earth Asteroid modeling efforts

Published in:
1st NEO and Debris Detection Conf., 22-24 January 2019.

Summary

Comprehensive thermophysical analyses of Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) provide important information about their physical properties, including visible albedo, diameter, composition, and thermal inertia. These details are integral to defining asteroid taxonomy and understanding how these objects interact with the solar system. Since infrared (IR) asteroid observations are not widely available, thermophysical modeling techniques have become valuable in simulating properties of different asteroid types. Several basic models that assume a spherical asteroid shape have been used extensively within the research community. As part of a program focused on developing a simulation of space-based IR sensors for asteroid search, the Near-Earth Asteroid Model (NEATM) developed by Harris, A. in 1998, was selected. This review provides a full derivation of the formulae behind NEATM, including the spectral flux density equation, consideration of the solar phase angle, and the geometry of the asteroid, Earth, and Sun system. It describes how to implement the model in software and explores the use of an ellipsoidal asteroid shape. It also applies the model to several asteroids observed by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) and compares the performance of the model to the observations.
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Summary

Comprehensive thermophysical analyses of Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) provide important information about their physical properties, including visible albedo, diameter, composition, and thermal inertia. These details are integral to defining asteroid taxonomy and understanding how these objects interact with the solar system. Since infrared (IR) asteroid observations are not widely available, thermophysical...

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SST asteroid search performance 2014-2017

Summary

From 2014 to 2017, the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program performed wide-area asteroid search using the 3.5-m Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) located on Atom Peak at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The SST was developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory (MIT/LL) for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to advance the nation's capabilities in space situational awareness. LINEAR asteroid search using SST was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). During three years of asteroid search operations, the SST had more than 14 million observations accepted by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) and contributed to the discovery of 142 previously unknown near-Earth objects (NEOs). This paper provides a summary of SST asteroid search performance during the three years of operation at Atom Peak, and describes performance improvements achieved through processing software upgrades, refinements in search strategy, and hardware upgrades such as the successful installation of Wide-Field Camera 2 (WFC-2) in summer 2016.
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Summary

From 2014 to 2017, the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program performed wide-area asteroid search using the 3.5-m Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) located on Atom Peak at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The SST was developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory (MIT/LL) for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to...

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Asteroid search operations with the Space Surveillance Telescope

Summary

Over the past two years, the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has transitioned to asteroid search operations using the new 3.5-meter wide-field-of-view Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) located at the Atom Site on White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The SST was developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) by MIT Lincoln Laboratory to help advance the nation's capabilities in space situational awareness. The goals of LINEAR using SST are to continue discovering Near-Earth objects (NEOs) especially focusing on improving knowledge of asteroids 140 meters in diameter and larger. In this paper, we will review results of the first two years of asteroid search operations, during which the SST has delivered over 9.4 million observations to the Minor Planet Center. Recent and planned system improvements will also be discussed.
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Summary

Over the past two years, the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has transitioned to asteroid search operations using the new 3.5-meter wide-field-of-view Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) located at the Atom Site on White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The SST...

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Detecting small asteroids with the Space Surveillance Telescope

Summary

The ability of the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) to find small (2-15 m diameter) NEAs suitable for the NASA asteroid retrieval mission is investigated. Orbits from a simulated population of targetable small asteroids were propagated and observations with the SST were simulated. Different search patterns and telescope time allocation cases were considered, as well as losses due to FOV gaps and weather. It is concluded that a full-time, dedicated survey at the SST is likely necessary to find a useful population of these NEAs within the mission launch timeframe, especially if an object must be observed on >1 night at SST to qualify as a detection. The simulations were also performed for an identical telescope in the southern hemisphere, which is found to produce results very similar to the SST in New Mexico due to significant (~80%) overlap in the population of objects detected at each site. In addition to considering the SST's ability to detect small NEAs, a parallel study was performed focusing on >100 m diameter objects. This work shows that even with limited telescope time (3 nights per month) a substantial number of these larger objects would be detected.
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Summary

The ability of the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) to find small (2-15 m diameter) NEAs suitable for the NASA asteroid retrieval mission is investigated. Orbits from a simulated population of targetable small asteroids were propagated and observations with the SST were simulated. Different search patterns and telescope time allocation cases...

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