Researchers using an innovative astrodynamic algorithm have discovered more than 100 asteroids that had not been detected in archived images of the sky.
Asteroids are rocky objects left by the formation of the solar system more than 4 billion years ago. Ranging in size from several feet to hundreds of kilometers in diameter, these rocky bodies are too small to be considered planets.
The 104 previously undiscovered asteroids were detected using a new algorithm called Tracklet-less Heliocentric Orbit Recovery (THOR), part of the cloud-based astrodynamic platform of Asteroid Discovery Analysis and Mapping. (ADAM) from the Asteroid Institute. This algorithm recognizes asteroids and calculates their trajectories by connecting the points of light in different images of the sky that are compatible with the orbits of the asteroids, according to A declaration of the B612 Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports solar system mapping and navigation research and technologies.
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“Discovering and tracking asteroids is crucial to understanding our solar systemenabling space development and protecting our planet from asteroid impacts,” Ed Lu, executive director of the Asteroid Institute, a program of the B612 Foundation, said in the statement.
“With THOR running on ADAM, any telescope with an archive can now become an asteroid search telescope,” said Lu, who is also a former NASA astronaut. “We are using the power of massive computing to not only enable more discoveries from existing telescopes, but also to find and track asteroids in historical images of the sky that had previously gone unnoticed because they were never intended for search for asteroids.”
The newly discovered asteroids were discovered using historical data from the NOIRLab source catalog. This data was analyzed by the THOR algorithm on the ADAM platform, which runs on Google Cloud. The NOIRLab data included a collection of nearly 68 billion observations taken by the National Observatory for Optical Astronomy between 2012 and 2019. The candidate asteroids were submitted to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planets Center for confirmation.
“A complete program solar system map gives astronomers essential information for both science and planetary defense,” said Matthew Holman, a dynamist and research algorithm expert at the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and former director of the IAU Minor Planet Center, in the statement. . such as THOR greatly expand the types of datasets astronomers can use to construct such a map.
Identifying these first 104 asteroids using the THOR algorithm opens the door for even more asteroid discoveries using historical telescope datasets in the future, the researchers said.
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