The PHASTT projects are built on our desire to quickly (and cheaply) design and deploy wide-field telescopes to aid in the search and characterization of small, undetected asteroids and comets. The PHASTT (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Search & Tracking Telescope) network will, initially, consist of two telescopes – an f/1 Baker-Nunn camera situated near Arequipa, Peru and a 50cm f/3.6 astrograph located near the town of Ager in the Catalonia province of Spain.
PHASTT-1 will be a commercial, off-the-shelf astrograph with a diameter of 50cm and a focal ratio of 3.6. Equipped with a large-format CCD camera, this telescope will image an area of about 1.4 square degrees allowing it to observe a large number of asteroids per night. In order to characterize asteroids, a special eight-colour filter set will be mounted.
PHASTTER (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Search & Tracking Telescope for Education and Research) will, as its name implies, be faster than PHASTT-1. Much faster. With the same 50cm aperture and an incredible f/1 optical design, the modified Baker-Nunn will capture more than 14.5 square degrees of sky in each image. This means that it will have one of the largest, single-CCD field-of-view in the world!
In the future (after PHASTT-1 is operational) we plan to expand network capabilities greatly. For now, we’ll call it PHASTT-4ward. We don’t have all of the technical details sorted out yet but we can say that it will combine a pretty cool optical design with a truly innovative software solution. On the hardware front, a 4 telescope setup with 50cm f/2 optics means that a single site will cover the same field of view as the incredibly capable PHASTTER design. By doing so, the advantages will be clear: higher resolution and a better limiting magnitude – two very important features that will help us find the small, faint asteroids that we’re after before they impact the Earth.
Mike Mazur is a Canadian geoscientist living and working in Norway, with experience relating to near-Earth objects (NEOs), bolides (bright meteors), impact craters, and the location of meteorites. Over the past 15 years, Mike has played an active role in the refurbishment of two Baker-Nunn cameras in Canada and Spain. As project lead for the PHASTT network, his goal is to ensure that the PHASTT Network is designed to be fit-for-purpose and developed and operated efficiently and cost-effectively.
Dr. Octavi Fors is a Spanish astronomer who will soon be joining the Qatar Energy and Environment Research Institute (Qatar Foundation). Over the past 8 years, Dr. Fors has worked at the University of Barcelona and Fabra Observatory refurbishing the TFRM Baker-Nunn and overseen its operation in the context of TFRM-PSES, a Super-Earths survey which is being conducted with the telescope. His professional interests include robotic astronomy, searching for exoplanets, image processing, and high angular resolution measurement using lunar occultations.
Dr. Raul Yanyachi is head of the Electronic Engineering department at the Universidad Nacional de San Augustin in Peru. He is closely involved with the Observatorio de la NASA laser tracking station at Arequipa, home to the PHASTTER Baker-Nunn camera. His professional interests include control systems and laser ranging of satellites.
Pere Gil is a Spanish astronomer who works for the Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya at the Montsec Astronomical Observatory. He lives close to Montsec and is a specialist in high-quality astronomical imaging.