Letters of Intent received in 2022

LoI 2024-2174
Follow-up observations of small bodies in our Solar System in the era of large discovery surveys

Date: 8 August 2024 to 9 August 2024
Category: Focus meetings (GA)
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Contact: Nicolas Erasmus (nerasmus@saao.ac.za)
Coordinating division: Division F Planetary Systems and Astrobiology
Other divisions:
Co-Chairs of SOC: Nicolas Erasmus (South African Astronomical Observatory)
Amanda Sickafoose (Planetary Science Institute)
Larry Denneau (University of Hawaii)
Estela Fernandez-Valenzuela (University Central Florida)
Hee-Jae Lee (Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute)
Co-Chairs of LOC: Nicolas Erasmus (South African Astronomical Observatory)
Amanda Sickafoose (Planetary Science Institute)



Objects – small bodies in the Solar System: asteroids, centaurs, comets, TNOs
Techniques – astrometry, occultations, photometry, spectroscopy
Preparation for the large number of discovery alerts anticipated from modern surveys
Instrumentation required for automated follow-up observations of small bodies



Over the past two decades discovery programs like the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research [1] (LINEAR) project, Catalina [2], Pan-STARRS [3], Zwicky Transient Facility [4] (ZTF) and the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System [5] (ATLAS) have discovered and reported more than 1.2 million small bodies (asteroids, comets, centaurs, TNOs etc.) in our Solar System to the Minor Planet Center (MPC). However, the follow-up classification observations of these objects is sorely lagging behind with only ∼3000 classification spectra [6], ~24000 rotation periods [7] and photometric colours of perhaps several hundred thousand of all known small bodies reported so far [8,9]. The rate of discovery will increase exponentially in the next few years when even more data-intensive surveys like the Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time [10] (LSST) are finally completed and fully operational. This expected deluge of new discoveries in the near future is likely to exacerbate follow-up deficiencies but will provide opportunities for new large-scale characterisation approaches.

We propose here a 2-day focus meeting to discuss multiple aspects of the anticipated small body detections from surveys and their follow-up observations. Presentations would be welcome regarding large surveys, characterisations of small bodies (e.g. astrometric, photometric, spectroscopic), and instrumentation geared toward follow-up observations. Part of these global efforts include the South African LSST Programme and the South African Astronomical Observatory's (SAAO’s) future Intelligent Observatory (IO) project [11]. In particular, the SAAO IO is striving to facilitate more efficient follow-up observations of transient alerts (e.g. small body discoveries) through greater integration, robotic capability, and external programmatic observation requests, with an ultimate goal of integration into a future global co-ordinated network. Discussions of how such a worldwide cooperation of follow-up effort (specifically for small bodies) will function is strongly motivated.

As part of the focus meeting a public event will be planned in coordination with the SAAO SCBP (SALT Collateral Benefits Program).

1. G. H. Stokes, J. B. Evans, H. E. M. Viggh, et al., “Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Program (LINEAR),” 148, 21–28 (2000).
2. A. J. Drake, S. G. Djorgovski, A. Mahabal, et al., “First Results from the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey,” 696, 870–884 (2009).
3. N. Kaiser, W. Burgett, K. Chambers, et al., “The Pan-STARRS wide-field optical/NIR imaging survey,” in Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes III, L. M. Stepp, R. Gilmozzi, and H. J. Hall, Eds., Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series 7733, 77330E (2010).
4. R. M. Smith, R. G. Dekany, C. Bebek, et al., “The Zwicky transient facility observing system,” in Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy V, S. K. Ramsay, I. S. McLean, and H. Takami, Eds., Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series 9147, 914779 (2014).
5. J. L. Tonry, L. Denneau, A. N. Heinze, et al., “ATLAS: A High-cadence All-sky Survey System,” The Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 130, 064505 (2018).
6. http://smass.mit.edu/catalog.php
7. https://alcdef.org/
8. Gaia Collaboration, L. Galluccio, M. Delbo, et al., “Gaia Data Release 3: Reflectance spectra of Solar System small bodies,” arXiv e-prints, arXiv:2206.12174 (2022).
9. P. Tanga, T. Pauwels, F. Mignard, et al., “Gaia Data Release 3: the Solar System survey,” arXiv e-prints , arXiv:2206.05561 (2022).
10. LSST Science Collaboration, P. A. Abell, J. Allison, et al., “LSST Science Book, Version 2.0,” arXiv e-prints 1, arXiv:0912.0201 (2009).
11. S. B. Potter, “Towards an intelligent observatory,” Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciˆencias 93 (2021).