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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

China-Ukraine collaboration enhances near-Earth asteroid monitoring

NEAs are celestial bodies whose orbits bring them close to Earth, posing a significant threat due to the potential for catastrophic impacts.

A groundbreaking collaborative effort between China and Ukraine is revolutionizing the monitoring and tracking of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs). Leveraging innovative techniques and extensive observational data, researchers aim to enhance the accuracy of asteroid positioning and orbit determination, thus bolstering Earth’s defenses against potential asteroid impacts.

Threat of Near-Earth Asteroids

NEAs are celestial bodies whose orbits bring them close to Earth, posing a significant threat due to the potential for catastrophic impacts. This risk reiterates the necessity for prompt and precise observations to determine the orbital elements of newly identified NEAs. However, the challenge lies in accurately observing these rapidly moving objects without compromising the quality of the astronomical measurements.

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Innovative Observation Technique: Rotating-Drift-Scan CCD

To address this challenge, researchers from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory (SHAO) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Mykolaiv Astronomical Observatory have pioneered a novel technique known as the rotating-drift-scan (RDS) charge-coupled device (CCD) method. This technique allows NEAs to be imaged as point sources even with long exposure times, thus avoiding the problem of elongated streaks that typically occur when observing fast-moving objects. This breakthrough significantly improves the accuracy of positional measurements.

Extensive Data Collection and Analysis

The research team’s work is based on an extensive dataset comprising over 11,000 positional measurements of nearly 500 NEAs. These measurements were captured using two 50-centimeter telescopes located in Xi’an, China, from 2019 to 2023, and in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, from 2011 to 2022. This robust dataset has enabled the researchers to refine their techniques and enhance the precision of their observations.

Enhancing Global Monitoring Systems

According to a recent study published in the Astronomical Journal, the application of the RDS CCD technique can significantly improve global NEA monitoring systems. By utilizing a network of small-aperture telescopes equipped with this innovative technique, researchers can more effectively track and analyze NEAs, providing crucial data to safeguard Earth from potential impacts.

Financial Support for Technological Advancements

The China Development Bank (CDB) is playing a crucial role in supporting such scientific endeavors by providing substantial financial support for science and technology enterprises. From January to April this year, the CDB issued science and technology loans worth 40.6 billion yuan (approximately 5.7 billion U.S. dollars), with significant investments in fields such as integrated circuits, mechanical equipment, industrial automation, and new energy technology applications.

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Chinese Vice Premier Ding Xuexiang emphasized the importance of fostering a culture that respects science and advocates innovation. By promoting the spirit of scientists—patriotic, innovative, practical, dedicated, collaborative, and educative—China aims to create an environment conducive to scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements, thereby enhancing the nation’s capacity to address global challenges such as NEA threats.