Astronomy Imaging – Towards Routine Uncued Surveillance of Small Objects at and near Geostationary Orbit with Small Telescopes

time22/03/03
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Abstract

Space debris is the biggest threat to the safe operation of satellites. In the application of monitoring space debris, small telescopes have a huge cost advantage. However, the ability of existing small telescope systems to detect faint targets is limited even under ideal lighting and atmospheric conditions. To overcome these limitations, the researchers from J.T. McGraw and Associates, LLC built an optical detection system using Tucsen's Dhyana 95 camera, a telescope with a much smaller aperture than is usually used to observe space debris. Researchers have successfully achieved routine monitoring of small objects in and around geostationary orbit using small telescopes.

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Fig. 1 This 0.35m optical system is currently deployed at JTMA’s R&D site just outside of Albuquerque, NM. The system is based upon a 14” Celestron SCT with a Hyperstar prime focus corrector.

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Fig. 2 – Sidereal rate stack of images showing a moderate density star field, three easily identified geostationary objects and one bright near-geostationary object. The unidentified object is not in the public catalog but is bright enough that sophisticated analysis is not needed to detect it.

Analysis of imaging technology

Space debris is difficult to detect and track due to weak signal, small size and insignificant shape characteristics in ground observation. The Dhyana 95 camera has an effective image area of 22.5×22.5mm, a pixel size of 11×11μm, and an average median readout noise of 1.8E -. When the camera's chip cooling temperature drops to -10℃, the dark current is negligible. The camera can transmit data via USB 3.0 or CameraLink, which can reach speeds of more than 100 million pixels per second. In the observation experiment, the researchers made full use of the advantages of the high sensitivity and large effective imaging area of the Dhyana 95 camera, combined with its characteristics of high frame rate and low readout noise, and successfully achieved routine monitoring of small objects in and around the geostationary orbit through a small telescope.

Reference source

1. Zimmer, P., J. T. McGraw, M. Ackermann, “Towards Routine Uncued Surveillance of Small Objects at and near Geostationary Orbit with Small Telescopes. "  Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference (AMOS), 2017.

2. Zimmer, P., J. T. McGraw, M. Ackermann, “Affordable Wide-field Optical Space Surveillance using sCMOS and GPUs," Proceedings of the 2016 Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference.Wailea, Maui, Hawaii, 2016.

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