Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT): First Year Results

E. F. Helin, D. L. Rabinowitz, S. H. Pravdo, K. J. Lawrence (JPL)

The successful detection of Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) has been demonstrated by the Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during its first year of operation. The NEAT CCD camera system is installed on the U. S. Air Force 1-m GEODSS telescope in Maui. Using state-of-the-art software and hardware, the system initiates nightly transmitted observing script from JPL, moves the telescopes for successive exposures of the selected fields, detects moving objects as faint as V=20.5 in 40 s exposures, determines their astrometric positions, and downloads the data for review at JPL in the morning. The NEAT system is detecting NEAs larger than  200m, comets, and other unique objects at a rate competitive with current operating systems, and bright enough for important physical studies on moderate-sized telescopes.

NEAT has detected over 10,000 asteroids over a wide range of magnitudes, demonstrating the excellent capability of the NEAT system. Fifty-five percent of the detections are new objects and over 900 of them have been followed on a second night to receive designation from the Minor Planet Center. 14 NEAs (9 Amors, 4 Apollos, and 1 Aten) have been discovered since March 1996. Also, 2 long period comets and 1996 PW, an asteroidal object with an orbit of a long-period comet, with an eccentricity of 0.992 and orbital period of  5900 years.

Program discoveries will be reviewed along with analysis of results pertaining to the discovery efficiency, distribution on the sky, range of orbits and magnitudes.

Related abstract: Lawrence, K., et al., 1997 DPS