The Permanent Watch of the Sky

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Seeing big is one thing but managing priorities is more important. The era of giant telescopes does not sign the death of “small” university instruments from 0.5 to 3 m of opening. Indeed, far from being museum pieces, the “small” telescopes have the advantage of being numerous and much more available than the giants of astronomy whose observation sessions are planned months in advance .

In the framework of the asteroid monitoring programs, in particular Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) gravitating near the Earth, these telescopes are the first ones solicited to ensure the permanent watch of the sky that can no longer ensure the largest telescopes .

Since 1995, small telescopes have been installed at Kitt Peak (Spacewatch program) and especially at the Catalina Observatory (CSS program), supported by a network of knowledgeable amateurs equipped with telescopes ranging from 200 to over 500 mm. diameter monitor the sky. Each year, this community with sharp eyes discovers about 1000 new asteroids as well as various transient phenomena (supernovae, etc.).

Among these bodies, each year we discover on average 21 NEOs measuring more than 1 km moving close to the Earth but also sometimes small bodies measuring just 10 or 15 m in diameter and may cause a regional disaster. We will come back in another article on the impact stories and the management of this risk.

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