Detection of a faint fast-moving near-Earth asteroid using synthetic tracking technique

Chengxing Zhai, Michael Shao, Bijan Nemati, Thomas Werne, Hanying Zhou, Slava G. Turyshev, Jagmit Sandhu, Gregg W. Hallinan, Leon K. Harding
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Dr, Pasadena, CA 91109
arXiv:1403.4353 [astro-ph.IM], (18 Mar 2014)


   author={Zhai}, C. and {Shao}, M. and {Nemati}, B. and {Werne}, T.~A. and {Zhou}, H. and {Turyshev}, S.~G. and {Sandhu}, J. and {Hallinan}, G.~W. and {Harding}, L.~K.},

   title={"{Detection of a faint fast-moving near-Earth asteroid using synthetic tracking technique}"},

   journal={ArXiv e-prints},




   keywords={Astrophysics – Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics, Astrophysics – Earth and Planetary Astrophysics},




   adsnote={Provided by the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System}


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We report a detection of a faint near-Earth asteroid (NEA), which was done using our synthetic tracking technique and the CHIMERA instrument on the Palomar 200-inch telescope. This asteroid, with apparent magnitude of 23, was moving at 5.97 degrees per day and was detected at a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 15 using 30 sec of data taken at a 16.7 Hz frame rate. The detection was confirmed by a second observation one hour later at the same SNR. The asteroid moved 7 arcseconds in sky over the 30 sec of integration time because of its high proper motion. The synthetic tracking using 16.7 Hz frames avoided the trailing loss suffered by conventional techniques relying on 30-sec exposure, which would degrade the surface brightness of image on CCD to an approximate magnitude of 25. This detection was a result of our 12-hour blind search conducted on the Palomar 200-inch telescope over two nights on September 11 and 12, 2013 scanning twice over six 5.0 deg x 0.043 deg fields. The fact that we detected only one NEA, is consistent with Harris’s estimation of the asteroid population distribution, which was used to predict the detection of 1–2 asteroids of absolute magnitude H=28–31 per night. The design of experiment, data analysis method, and algorithms for estimating astrometry are presented. We also demonstrate a milli-arcsecond astrometry using observations of two bright asteroids with the same system on Apr 3, 2013. Strategies of scheduling observations to detect small and fast-moving NEAs with the synthetic tracking technique are discussed.
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