31st Annual Meeting of the DPS, October 1999
Session 12. Near Earth Asteroids Posters
Poster Group I, Monday-Wednesday, October 11, 1999, , Kursaal Center

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[12.02] Enhancing the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search

B. W. Koehn, E. Bowell (Lowell Observatory)

The Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS) uses a fully automated 59-cm Schmidt telescope to discover asteroids and comets that can approach the Earth. Secondary and tertiary scientific goals are, respectively, to discover other solar system bodies (main-belt asteroids, unusual asteroids, the largest TNOs), and, with extramural collaborators, to pursue a suite of non-solar system programs.

Nightly observing started in March 1998, and to date we have discovered 13~near-Earth asteroids (2~Atens, 7~Apollos, and 4~Amors), and 4~comets (1~periodic). One of the Atens (1999~HF1) is likely to be the largest known, and 8~of the Earth approachers are probably larger than 1~km in diameter. Comet Skiff (= C/1999~J2) has the largest known cometary perihelion distance (7.5~AU). We have submitted about 200,000 observations of asteroids to the Minor Planet Center, of which 100,000 pertain to known objects or to unknown objects that have been designated. Thus we have quickly become the fifth largest generator of asteroid astrometric data over the last decade. In terms of the discovery of larger NEOs, our search effort has, in the past year, been second only to that of LINEAR.

We are currently (July 1999) searching the sky at a steady monthly rate of about 6,000~deg2 to a typical limiting magnitude of V = 18.4 (for moving objects at a 50% detection probability). By fall 1999, we hope to have installed a new CCD camera, which will afford twice the DQE, a FOV of 9~deg2 (80% larger than that of our present camera), and more than a 50% increase in observational duty cycle. Later, we hope to improve the corrector plate's optical performance and to improve dome seeing. Together, these enhancements should allow us to increase monthly sky coverage (three passes per region) to 20,000~deg2--which represents the entire accessible dark sky--and to increase the search limiting magnitude to V = 19.2 or fainter. During the coming years, we expect to discover many hundreds of NEOs.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: koehn@lowell.edu

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