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B. W. Koehn, E. L. G. Bowell (Lowell Observatory)
The Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS) uses an automated 58-cm Schmidt telescope to discover asteroids and comets that can approach the Earth. Nightly observing started in March 1998, and, to date, we have discovered 41 near-Earth asteroids and 9 comets. We have submitted about 460,000 observations of asteroids to the Minor Planet Center, about half of which pertain to known objects.
We have recently installed a Lowell-built CCD camera. Compared to the original camera, the new camera has a shorter read time (12 sec vs. 45 sec), a higher peak quantum efficiency (85 sq), lower read noise, and far fewer defects.
Using a a slightly modified observing technique (4 passes rather than 3) we are now observing about twice as much sky each hour. New software allows us to detect sources at 1.7-sigma above background. Together, the software and observing technique have increased our limiting magnitude to V=19.3 while decreasing the number of false detections.
Our performance has increased a factor of seven with monthly (May/June) asteroid positions increasing from 8,400 to 58,800 and monthly NEO discoveries increasing from 1 to 8. We hope to increase our performance even more by improving the system's duty cycle, dome seeing, and telescope optics.