Shoemaker NEO Grant Winners Advance Their Work
Višnjan Observatory, Croatia
Višnjan Observatory’s performance improved after a Shoemaker grant enabled recoating of their one-meter mirror. The telescope made over 6,000 individual asteroid position measurements, making major contributions to NEO discovery confirmation and follow-up. The grant also facilitated the purchase of a coma corrector to improve performance. Construction of a focuser and housing for the coma corrector has been delayed by COVID restrictions.
Alessandro Nastasi, Sabrina Masiero and Mario Di Martino
GAL Hassin Astronomical Center in Sicily, Italy
Nastasi and his colleagues used a Shoemaker grant to purchase a telescope dome as part of automating their observatory, as well as a precise timing system. After facing initial pandemic delays, they were able to work quite efficiently once everything was automated.
GAL Hassin performs follow-up observations including on newly discovered asteroids moving fast across the sky (meaning they are relatively close to Earth). Among other observations in 2020 the group played a major role during the monitoring and risk assessment of two NEOs just a few meters wide. Although these objects were small enough to not be dangerous, the observations demonstrated the capability of the system. One of the two small NEOs became the closest object to pass Earth without impacting, flying by at an altitude of just 400 kilometers (250 miles).
Shed of Science Observatory, United States
Durkee recently moved his observatory from Minnesota to a dark sky site in Texas. His 2019 Shoemaker grant replaced his aging camera, which was purchased with a 2010 Shoemaker grant. The new camera has a cooled detector to work more efficiently, which will come in handy during hot Texas summers.
The first new camera Durkee received was defective, but it has now been replaced and has significantly increased the sensitivity of his observatory. In the past few months, he observed 14 different objects supporting campaigns to identify and characterize binary asteroids.