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Session 55 - New Digital Sky Surveys.
Display session, Wednesday, June 10
The Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program is the first fully automated system for controlling a remote telescope, acquiring wide-field digital images, and detecting near- Earth objects (NEOs). Under an agreement between the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Institute of Technology and the U. S. Air Force, JPL is provided access to a 1.0 m telescope located at the 3000 m summit of Haleakala crater in Maui, Hawaii. During NEAT operations, a thermo-electrically cooled CCD camera, constructed by JPL using a Lockheed 4K x 4K CCD with 15 micron pixels and 4-quadrant readout, is mounted at the f/2.15 Ritchey-Cretian focus, thus providing a 2.6 sq. deg. field. High-speed electronics built by San Diego State University control the CCD and read out the full-resolution image in 20 sec. An on-site JPL computer is programmed to move the telescope through a scripted sequence of positions, to acquire CCD images, and to measure the position and brightness of every moving object. By scripting 20 sec exposures every 40 secs, this system can image up to 1000 sq. deg. thrice nightly to magnitude limit V=19.5, and can detect asteroids with 90% efficiency to V=18. As of April 1998, NEAT has surveyed approx. 26000 sq. deg., detected approx. 23000 asteroid, and discovered 28 new NEOs. The current rate of NEO detections, including incidental redetections, is about 2 per 1000 sq. deg., of which half are larger than 1 km. All images are being archived and made accessible through the SKYMORPH web interface (see presentation by S. Pravdo et al.). A proposal is currently under review to run the NEAT program on three Air Force telescope, 18 nights per month. Such a system would cover the whole night sky 3 times per month to V=20, and detect 90% of the NEOs larger than 1 km in 10 to 20 years.
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