Asteroid Response System in Place (Complete With U.S. Military Eye Patch)

Pan_starrs If an asteroid with Planet Earth's name on it shows up, we're prepared.

Astronomers in Haleakala,  Hawaii have announced that the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) telescope, PS1, is fully operational.  Pan-STARRS will search for killer asteroids, supernovae (exploding stars) and other objects.

The facility in Hawaii boasts one of the largest digital cameras in the world, a 1,400 megapixel (1,400,000,000 pixels) device that can photograph and map one sixth of the sky every month.  Pan-STARRS will allow astronomers to track any potential threats to the Earth.

However, the US air force, which funded the development of the telescope, requires that software automatically black out a swathe of pixels to hide the trajectories of passing satellites.

Last year this restriction, plus other shortcomings, meant that just 68 per cent of the total sky imaged produced usable pictures. As of March, improvements in image processing have boosted that figure to 76 per cent, says team member Eric Bell. Still, the asteroid hunters have had to add an extra set of observations for certain patches of sky to compensate for the possibility that an object might whizz by undetected.

Casey Kazan


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