This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

07 January 2009

Update on Catalina Sky Survey (CSS)

Overview of Steward Observatory's Mount Lemmon Observatory. The 24-inch SkyCenter telescope used for public evening observations is at left. The silver-colored dome will house the Catalina Sky Survey's refurbished 40-inch telescope by summer. The white dome at center is the 60-inch Catalina Sky Survey telescope. (Bob Peterson, Steward Observatory)

Selections from the article...

The University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey has been awarded a $3.16 million NASA grant to continue its search for near-Earth objects, or NEOs, through 2012.

Under the direction of Stephen M. Larson of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, the survey, known as CSS, has discovered about 70 percent of all NEOs found in the past three years.

CSS tallied 565 NEO discoveries in 2008, which broke its record-setting number of 460 NEO discoveries in 2007.

Thanks to an additional $250,000 NASA grant, which was matched by private donations, the survey is now positioning itself to become even more productive.

CSS is about to open a new high-speed communications link and begin operating another telescope, a 1-meter, or 40-inch, telescope that is being refurbished with a new mirror and new software. It will be housed in a new 22-foot dome that was constructed next to the UA's 1.5 meter, or 60-inch, Mount Lemmon telescope north of Tucson.

The CSS team proved the power of their technique early last October, when CSS observer Richard Kowalski on Mount Lemmon discovered Asteroid 2008 TC3, an object only about 6 feet across that entered Earth's atmosphere and disintegrated over Sudan.

As of January 2, 2009, according to scientists with NASA's Near Earth Object Program, observers had discovered 5,955 NEOS, including 763 asteroids at least 1 kilometer in diameter.

So far, 1,008 NEOs larger than 140 meters have been found that come within 4.5 million miles of the Earth's orbit and are thus classified as potentially hazardous objects because they may be perturbed into impacting trajectories in the future.

Press Release: University of Arizona Article (Catalina Sky Survey Sets New Record for NEO Discoveries, Receives Funding Through 2012, 07 January 2009)

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