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Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Jan 31, 2009
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More than 15,000 near-Earth objects and counting
October 28, 2016

The international effort to find, confirm and catalogue the multitude of asteroids that pose a threat to our planet has reached a milestone: 15 000 discovered – with many more to go.

The number of catalogued asteroids approaching Earth has grown rapidly since the count reached 10 000 only three years ago.

"The rate of discovery has been high in the past few years, and teams worldwide have been discovering on average 30 new ones per week," says Ettore Perozzi, manager of the NEO Coordination Centre at ESA's centre near Rome, Italy.

"A few decades back, 30 were found in a typical year, so international efforts are starting to pay off. We believe that 90% of objects larger than 1000 m have been discovered, but – even with the recent milestone – we've only found just 10% of the 100 m NEOs and less than 1% of the 40 m ones."

Today, the two main discovery efforts are in the US: the (University of Arizona's) Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, and the (University of Hawaii's) Pan-STARRS project in Hawaii, jointly accounting for about 90% of the new bodies found.


Catalina Sky Survey

Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) utilized two US telescopes, a 1.5 meter (60 inch) f/2 telescope on the peak of Mt. Lemmon, and a 68 cm (27 inch) f/ 1.7 Schmidt telescope near Mt. Bigelow (both in the Tucson, Arizona area). The CSS southern hemisphere counterpart, the Siding Spring Survey (SSS), used a 0.5 meter (20 inch) f/3 Uppsala Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. The southern hemispheres' SSS in Australia ended in 2013 after funding was discontinued.


Pan-STARRS is funded in large part by the United States Air Force through their Research Labs. In the wake of substantial funding problems, no clear timeline existed for additional telescopes beyond the second.

New Horizons returns last bits of 2015 flyby data to Earth
October 28, 2016


NASA's New Horizons mission reached a major milestone this week when the last bits of science data from the Pluto flyby – stored on the spacecraft's digital recorders since July 2015 – arrived safely on Earth.

Having traveled from the New Horizons spacecraft over 3.1 billion miles (five hours, eight minutes at light speed), the final item – a segment of a Pluto-Charon observation sequence taken by the Ralph/LEISA imager – arrived at mission operations at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, at 5:48 a.m. EDT on Oct. 25. The downlink came via NASA's Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia. It was the last of the 50-plus total gigabits (Gb) of Pluto system data transmitted to Earth by New Horizons over the past 15 months.

Bowman said the team will conduct a final data-verification review before erasing the two onboard recorders, and clearing space for new data to be taken during the New Horizons Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM) that will include a series of distant Kuiper Belt object observations and a close encounter with a small Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, on Jan. 1, 2019.

New Horizon's data transfer rate - 7 Mbits/hour (from figure given in video at above link)