Two unique ground telescope operations, at the Catalina Sky Survey in Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, and the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or PanSTARRS, located at Haleakala, Hawaii, are responsible for about 90 percent of all near-Earth object discoveries. Find out more
Two search projects,one in Arizona, the other in Hawaii,account for about 90% of all near-Earth object discoveries.[wind]- Catalina Sky Survey and other survey programs are really sort of the start of the whole planetary protection ecosystem.
It starts with discovery, goes onto followup and characterization, impact risk analysis mitigation studies, but you can't followup and you can't characterize and you can't calculate the impact risk of something you don't discover.
In order to find a near earth asteroid, we take four images of a patch of sky separated by about five minutes. - And we take those four images and we blink them really fast and it creates this little animation so we can see that the stars in the background are static as they should be and if there's anything that's moving, it'll pop out.
- [Eric] And our software compares those images and identifies things that are not moving, which are stars, and removes those. Identifies things that are transient from frame to frame and tries to link those up. - We've probably seen about a million asteroids in the last seven years that PanSTARRS has been operating. It's like picking a needle out of a haystack. We're looking for distinctive motion and when we see distinctive motion in asteroids we report them to the Minor Planet Center.
The Minor Planet Center is the sort of world clearing house for near earth asteroids. The Center for NEO Studies, takes the observations from the Minor Planet Center and computes the high precision orbits that we use to make predictions. CNEOS is also kind of an early warning system for newly discovered asteroids. We take the early data and we compute whether or not that asteroid could hit the earth. If there's a chance, we'll send out an early warning, an alert, for follow-up observation, so that we can get more data and then we would know perhaps, whether it can hit the earth or not. - Asteroid impacts are a fact of life. The earth has been impacted by asteroids continually through its history. - We saw in 2013 in Russia a fairly small, by the standards of what we're finding, asteroid did hit the earth. I feel a little bit like a guardian of the planet and doing my bit to try to protect people. It is a long term process, it's going take many, many years to find all of the dangerous asteroids. - [Eric] The goal is to find near-earth asteroids before they find us.