In the past several months, some significant upgrades in capability have taken place. We will take this opportunity to present details on these upgrades here, as well as their effect. These upgrades have allowed a large increase in discoveries of NEOs over the previous year. With a couple further immediate upgrades in capability, we expect another surge in discoveries when we compute annual tallies in about a year.
Upgraded CCD detector for Mount Lemmon Survey telescope
The most important capability upgrade in 2016 was the installation of a monolithic 10K X 10K CCD for The Catalina Sky Survey’s Mount Lemmon (observatory code G96) 1.5m reflector. This new detector allowed for approximately 5 times the area coverage as the previous camera, and the results were impressive. G96 had more than a 100% increase in discoveries over the previous year. This increase is almost entirely responsible for the 20% increase in discoveries from the previous year.
Upgraded CCD detector for Catalina Sky Survey telescope
In addition to the upgraded chip for G96, Catalina was also able to secure and install an identical 10K chip for the Catalina Sky Survey Schmidt telescope (observatory code 703). After some tweaks, this system is now performing well and the resulting sky coverage is truly impressive. 703 can cover the entire observable sky from their site in ~ 3 nights of observing.
The ATLAS Project has installed and begun operation of a 0.5m telescope capable of covering the entire observable sky from their site in Hawaii every few nights. Some adjustments to the optics are in progress that will allow for fainter limiting magnitudes; however the combination of this telescope with the CSS Schmidt will result in the entire observable northern hemisphere sky being observed every couple of clear nights. ATLAS has also proposed for additional systems, and if successful they will also install one in the southern hemisphere.
Pending upgrade: A new CCD camera for the Pan-STARRS 2 telescope.
The Pan-STARRS project will also provide a major upgrade boost, commensurate with those described above. A second 1.8-m telescope with a large field of view will begin operation shortly. It is expected that the telescope’s capabilities will be very similar to the existing system (PS1) and thus should result in another surge in NEO discoveries, particularly at fainter limiting magnitudes than most other facilities.
Because of all of the upgrades described here, we hope for another major increase in NEO discoveries by year end.
New CNEOS web page
JPL’s Center for NEO Studies has completed a major overhaul of their web services and has completed initial release to the public. Part of this upgrade is an application programming interface (API) service. This system can be linked here. We encourage users to give this site a good look, and we also look forward to more good stuff from the folks at JPL in the near future.