New Research in Sky Surveillance - Interpretation of Low-Luminosity Objects
Final rept. 1 Nov 1997-31 Oct 2000
STEWARD OBSERVATORY TUCSON AZ
Pagination or Media Count:
Spacewatch is an exploration of the whole solar system for minor planets and comets, from the inner solar system to beyond Neptunes orbit. During this report period, Spacewatch discovered 23 Earth-approachers EAs, 9,910 main belt asteroids MBAs, a new satellite of Jupiter, 2 comets, 9 Centaurs or scattered-disk objects, and 6 Trans-Neptunian Objects TNOs. Spacewatch made a new estimate of the number of km-sized EAs, from which it has been estimated that only 50 of such objects have been found by all groups and that the remainder of km-sized EAs may tend to have orbits that make them more difficult to detect. Relevant to that, Spacewatch continued to develop new software and equipment that will provide sensitivity to slower angular motion, dimmer targets, and faster coverage of sky area. Spacewatch extended knowledge of the distribution of MBAs vs. absolute magnitude by 4 mags, found departures in this distribution from a simple power-law, and contributed this fit to the first empirical determination of the transition from mechanical strength to gravitational bonding in the critical specific energy vs. size relation of asteroids. In the outer solar system, Spacewatch extended knowledge of the luminosity distribution of Centaurs and Trans-Neptunians to brighter magnitudes.