Update & Plans for 2010
During 2009 we have completed the simulation of the near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) synthetic population to test the efficiency of an optimized survey search strategy. The network of users contributing computing resources has grown continuously, well beyond the level necessary to secure the computational power required by this investigation.
We have completed the numerical simulations where a population of synthetic NEAs was searched by one or two competing simulated surveys using different search strategies. The simulations covered periods between 5 and 20 years, and were as realistic as possible, including variable detection efficiency as a function of apparent magnitude and apparent velocity, efficiency drop close to full moon, and earth rotation effects. The results show that it is possible to improve over standard search strategies, especially on the short term, i.e. when the improved search strategy is used for a few months. On the longer term, the advantage of the improved search strategy seems to be slowly reabsorbed, partly because the decreasing number of asteroids yet to be discovered. The emerging patter seems to suggest that surveys should balance between periods adopting regular search strategies (opposition, low solar elongation) with periods adopting optimized search, that points far from the ecliptic at favorable moments.
For 2010 we plan to run our code on real data, primarily sky coverage data by real NEAs surveys, to produce two main products:
- a detailed map of the NEAs population, including both known and unknown NEAs, that will show clearly the orbits that are more likely to hide unknown asteroids; this map should improve our estimate of the total number of asteroids with a given brightness or diameter that are still unknown, and help surveys in their search;
- a sky map updated every night containing the regions in the sky that are more likely to contain unknown NEAs, and make this chart publicly available, so that interested NEAs surveys can test it and assess whether such a tool significantly improves the chances to discover new NEAs;
We plan to resume active development in March 2010.