May 5, 2000
Journal name not available for this finding
Abstract : An Earth impact with an asteroid has potentially devastating consequences. In order to avoid global destruction, astronomers have been attempting to map out the orbits of all possibly hazardous Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for the past two decades. Although there are a number of astronomers devoted to discovering new NEAs, there are very few who are tracking these discoveries. Therefore many recently identified NEAs are routinely lost. This Trident Scholar Project had two main objectives. The scientific goal of this project focused upon tracking several NEAs in order to determine their orbits. In addition, lightcurves were observed for a subset of these NEAs in order to find their rotational periods and their general shapes. This was done by taking observations of each asteroid for at least one full night and then plotting light intensity versus time. The second objective was to refurbish and upgrade the observatory at the U.S. Naval Academy. Astronomical research at the U.S. Naval Academy hinges on the successful operation of a 20" Cassegrain telescope with a Photometrics 1024x1024 Charge Coupled Device (camera), as well as several computers to control these devices and process the data. As a result of this Trident Scholar Project, the U.S. Naval Academy now boasts a fully functioning, state-of-the-art observatory, including newly acquired and developed software for tracking NEAs and analyzing astronomical observations in general. This Trident Scholar Project added to the body of knowledge of NEAs by determining the orbits of eleven asteroids, as well as the rotational periods and rough shapes of four asteroids. In addition, this Trident Scholar Project will benefit both midshipmen and faculty who wish to either continue tracking NEAs or begin a new field of astronomical research using the now completely established observatory at the U.S. Naval Academy.