Principal Investigator: Joseph Masiero, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Our program's goal is to acquire followup observations of asteroids and comets that pass close to the Earth, which have been newly discovered by the NEOWISE survey. NEOWISE is an Earth-orbiting infrared survey telescope that is constantly scanning the sky 90 degrees from the Sun. Measurements in infrared light allow us not only to find new small bodies of the Solar system, but also constrain their diameters, an important physical parameter for understanding the potential danger they pose to Earth. With ground-based followup at visible wavelengths we can also determine how reflective asteroids are, giving us an idea of their composition, and study the gas and dust properties of comets.
NEOWISE can only observe newly discovered objects for about one day, which is enough to identify asteroids and comets but not constrain their orbits. Followup data are critical to ensuring the orbits of these objects are accurately measured, and thus they can be tracked until their next pass by the Earth. The Gemini South telescope allows our team to ensure that the faintest new discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere are not lost, and that their physical properties are well understood.
Figure 5. The NEOWISE team as seen in the infrared (L-to-R: Carrie Nugent, Rachel Stevenson, Tommy Grav, Joe Masiero, John Dailey, Amy Mainzer, James Bauer, Sarah Sonnett).
Figure 6. Sequence of four Gemini images of near-Earth asteroid 2014 EN45 (circled). This object was discovered by the NEOWISE survey on 6 March 2014 and imaged by GMOS-S on 13 March 2014, which provided critical astrometry needed to confirm the asteroid's orbit. 2014 EN45 is ~800 meters in diameter and is as dark as a piece of coal.
- Amy Mainzer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- James Bauer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Tommy Grav, Planetary Science Institute
- Rachel Stevenson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Carrie Nugent, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Sarah Sonnett, Jet Propulsion