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M. Connors (Centre for Science, Athabasca University), C. Veillet (Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope), P. Wiegert, K. Innanen (Department of Physics and Astronomy, York University), S. Mikkola (Tuorla Observatory, University of Turku)
Using the Canada-France-Hawaii 3.6 m telescope and the new CFH12k wide-field CCD imager, a survey of the region near Earth's L4 (morning) Lagrange Point was conducted in May and July/August 2000, in hopes of finding asteroids at or near this point. This survey was motivated by the dynamical interest of a possible Earth Trojan asteroid (ETA) population and by the fact that they would be the easiest asteroids to access from Earth. Recent calculations (Wiegert, Innanen and Mikkola, 2000, Icarus v. 145, 33-43) indicate stability of objects in ETA orbits over a million year timescale and that their on-sky density would be greatest roughly five degrees sunward of the L4 position. An optimized search technique was used, with tracking at the anticipated rate of the target bodies, near real-time scanning of images, and duplication of fields to aid in detection and permit followup. Limited time is available on any given night to search near the Lagrange points, and operations must be conducted at large air mass. Approximately 9 square degrees were efficiently searched and two interesting asteroids were found, NEA 2000 PM8 and our provisionally named CFZ001. CFZ001 cannot be excluded from being an Earth Trojan although that is not the optimal solution for the short arc we observed. This object, of R magnitude 22, was easily detected, suggesting that our search technique worked well.
This survey supports the earlier conclusion of Whitely and Tholen (1998, Icarus v. 136, 154-167) that a large population of several hundred meter diameter ETAs does not exist. However, our effective search technique and the discovery of two interesting asteroids suggest the value of completing the survey with approximately 10 more square degrees to be searched near L4 and a comparable search to be done at L5.
Funding from Canada's NSERC and HIA and the Academic Research Fund of Athabasca University is gratefully acknowledged.
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