A paper describes a new technique designed to increase significantly the sensitivity for finding and tracking small, dim, and fast-moving near Earth asteroids (NEAs). The technique relies on a combined use of a novel data processing approach and a new generation of high-speed CCD cameras. These new cameras have very low readout noise (≈le–) and allow taking short exposures of moving objects at high frame rates, effectively “freezing” their motion on the CCD. A long-exposure image is synthetically created as if the telescope were tracking the object with a significantly higher SNR — an approach called “synthetic tracking.” By changing the shift/add vector, multiple dim objects moving in different directions can be detected in the same data set.

Synthetic tracking was applied to observations of two known asteroids conducted on the Palomar 200-inch telescope and a tenfold improvement of astrometric precision over the traditional long exposure approach was demonstrated.

This work was done by Michael Shao, Bijan Nemati, Chengxing Zhai, Jagmit S. Sandhu, and Slava G. Turyshev of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech. NPO-47342


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Preparation, Planning, and Concept Demo of a Technique to Find =7-to-10-m Near Earth Asteroids

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This article first appeared in the August, 2014 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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