Aids for following up on Near Earth Objects

The last 25 years I’ve been following-up recent and not so recent Near Earth Asteroids (and comets).

In recent years the effort has been aided by a few very helpful technologies. The revolution in all-sky plate solving has made it much simpler and faster to determine the exact position your telescope is pointing along with verifying the camera’s field of view, focal length, and the arc-second per pixel produced by your camera/telescope combination. This is accomplished by simply taking a current image and plugging that image into software. Generally within a minute or less, the all-sky plate solver will spit out the current position. There are several (did I mention free) software packages that produce highly accurate positional data from just a short, usually less than 1 minute image. The one I use is:
(c) 2015-2016 Giovanni Benintende

Verification of the current time can be accomplished using a GPS time signal device. The device I use is Si-Tech’s GPS server. It’ll keep the time in your computers clock accurate to a few milliseconds and update the time every few minutes.

Finally, if I need to know how clear the sky is where I’m imaging, I use an Astra 180 All-Sky Camera. It continually monitors a 180 degree view and updates any changing sky conditions every 5 seconds.

Even with approaching high thin clouds, I can gauge their arrival near my telescopes position in the night sky and use every possible moment of clear skies. The Astra 180 will also show other anomalies affecting images including thin and thick clouds, atmospheric smoke (both local and upper atmosphere), aurora, and airplane and satellite traffic.

As an aside, I’ve seen the Astra180 detect lightning bugs (A.K.A. firefly) that could be involved in your images.

The Astra180 Allsky Camera is currently available only at;

Gary Hug
Sandlot Observatory MPC H36

Clipart of a galaxy

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