A new method significantly speeds up the search for dangerous asteroids – Syfy

Note: This article was written in part to help with promotion Asteroid Day on June 30A global effort to raise awareness about the dangers of asteroids and their scientific importance. It’s June 30 every year. Anniversary of the Great Tunguska Effect in 1908The B612 Foundation mentioned below is one of the founding partners. I was already scheduled to be in Luxembourg – Asteroid Day HQ – To oversee some committees and talk about asteroids, but a health issue (now resolved!) prevented me from traveling. still, Hope you take a look at the awesome events scheduled, including live broadcasts with scientists, astronauts and other experts. Learn things and have fun


Finding near-Earth asteroids has taken a huge leap thanks to THOR.

Yes, THOR is different. This is an acronym for Tracket-less Heliocentric Orbit Recovery, a method that not only greatly speeds up the speed of finding asteroids, but also allows the search to be performed using old archived images regardless of when they were taken. it’s faster And the The extensive database of notes found on the Internet can be used. So yeah, that’s a big deal.

Finding asteroids in general is not difficult, it is just a waste of time. When they orbit the sun they appear to be moving slowly across the sky. So you use a telescope to take a picture of one spot, wait a short period of time – you usually go to other places in the sky to observe it – and then re-watch the same spot. Do it again, and now you have three pictures of the same patch of sky.

The stars do not move, so if you align the three images, all the stars will appear in the same place, but the asteroid will move, forming a line of three points. This is the path of its movement during that time, so this short line is called a traclet. It may be sufficient to use the centuries-old equations of motion to create a predicted orbit of an object, and the equation describing that orbit can then be displayed in the future or the past to find out where or where it is in the sky; Future notes or previously archived notes can be searched to see if they exist, Orbit can be refined.

In practice, it’s more complicated of course, but that’s somewhat how to do it. One problem is that this method is very computer time intensive and not very efficient. Another reason is that asteroids don’t always appear to move in straight lines; The movement of the Earth around the sun — or the movement of the orbiting observatory around the Earth — can make these lines vibrate, making asteroids difficult to spot. Also, with massive online surveys coming up in the next few years, they’re going to find millions of asteroids (!!), and you’re going to stumble this way trying to track them all down.

Enter Thor [link to paper]a project developed by asteroid instituteproject from B612 . Foundation. The idea here is not to track the asteroids themselves, but to create theoretical test orbits for an asteroid, a kind of undoing the usual way of doing things. The test orbit is really just an equation of a component orbit, suppose a circular orbit is 300 million km from the sun at a certain inclination and direction. This generates a set of numbers called Orbital parametersand they, in turn, determine an equation that can be solved for the location of the asteroid at a given time.

This test orbit is then shown forward or backward to other observation times, which are then searched for objects close to that path. Algorithms for this type of search are common and tend to be very fast.

There are many advantages to this method – The Asteroid Institute has a good FAQ to explain all this — but what’s really amazing is that he doesn’t necessarily need notes that are close together in time and at a certain pace to work. The location of a potential asteroid in a test orbit can be calculated for the time of any given observation from any observatory. Since we know when the observation was made and also where in the sky it was captured, it’s possible to know if a possible asteroid was present in that observation at that time, even if it was captured weeks or more earlier.

This is very powerful. There are many – a Many – From astronomical observations stored in databases, and in fact the team that created the algorithm tested it on real data. They used two weeks of notes from Zwicky Transit FacilityIt is a massive survey of the sky, to search for possible asteroids, and they managed to recover more than 97% of the previously known asteroids that appeared in the data! embarrassed.

They also used data from NOIRLab Source Catalog, which is a massive database of astronomical observations, and examined observations for a month. They found 104 new asteroids in the data, which was confirmed by Little Planet Center. Therefore, it can find known asteroids as well as new asteroids. This is important because new observations can set off thousands of alerts about potential asteroids; If these asteroids can be quickly eliminated due to known asteroids, this saves a lot of time.

THOR can collide with asteroids quickly and across varying observations, and can use old images to illustrate orbits as well. With these massive new online surveys coming online, it looks like THOR will be incredibly helpful in finding the many asteroids expected to be discovered – something like 6000000 in the next decade.

That’s a lot of rocks. Knowing where they are, and most importantly, where they will be, It’s obviously very importantso I’m all this.


Note: If you are a code geek, THOR is on GitHub.

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