Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Search & Tracking Telescope Network Press Release

On September 29, 2013 by Mike

Crowd-Funded Telescopes will Hunt for Asteroids that Pose a Threat to Earth

Sep. 27, 2013The PHASTT Network has announced plans to build the world’s first crowd-funded astronomical observatories in 2014. A team of experienced astronomers in Spain, Peru, Norway and Canada will develop and operate the observatories.

The PHASTT team (pronounced ‘fast’) is leveraging the Indiegogo crowd-funding platform to finance the project. Individuals and groups contributing to the project will have access to the PHASTT Network through an online virtual observatory. The first two instruments in the Network will be uniquely capable of discovering, measuring and tracking asteroids with a potential to impact Earth.

• Two crowd-funded telescopes planned for 2014, in Spain and Peru
• Discovery, measurement and tracking of asteroids with potential to impact Earth
• Data supporting assessment and mitigation of impact risk, economic assessment of nearby asteroids
• Discovery and measurement of other exotic objects including comets, exoplanets and supernovae
• Refurbishing and repurposing of satellite tracking camera from the Cold War
• Network and online database to support research, education, outreach, citizen science

PHASTT-1 (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Search & Tracking Telescope, Mk I)
The PHASTT-1 instrument will employ a 50cm wide-field astroimaging telescope, large-format CCD camera and filters for analyzing light from asteroids. The instrument will be situated high in the Serra del Montsec near the Spanish Pyrennes, an advantageous location with superior observing conditions.

PHASTT-1 will be used to hunt and track nearby asteroids and assess their size and composition, allowing assessment and mitigation of potential impact risks to Earth. The same data will also be used to identify nearby asteroids with potential for space-based mining ventures.

PHASTT-1 will be capable of detecting up to 35,000 moving objects every night. In good conditions, objects 5 meters in size will be detectable more than a day before impacting Earth. Objects 50 meters in size will be detectable more than a week before impacting Earth, enabling evacuation of areas at risk.

PHASTTER (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Search & Tracking Telescope for Education & Research)
The PHASTTER instrument will employ a refurbished 50 cm Baker-Nunn camera. Fifteen of these massive cameras were built for NASA and the US Air Force to track Earth-orbiting satellites during the Cold War. Most are now damaged, dismantled or on display in museums, but one of the best-preserved cameras remains at its original site near Arequipa, Peru.

The Baker-Nunn camera is one of the best solutions ever developed for wide-field imaging of the sky. Properly refurbished, the camera will be perfectly suited to discovering, analyzing and monitoring asteroids, comets, exoplanets and other transient objects.

The PHASTT team plans to refurbish and operate the Arequipa camera at its original site, where skies are clear and dry for typically 300+ nights every year. PHASTTER will be an ideal southern-hemisphere complement to PHASTT-1in Spain, and to the objectives of the PHASTT Network.

PHASTT Network Team
Mike Mazur is a Canadian geoscientist living and working in Norway, with extensive research experience relating to Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), bolides (exploding meteors), impact craters and location of meteorites. Over the past 15 years, Mike has played key roles in refurbishing two Baker-Nunn cameras in Canada and Spain. As project lead for the PHASTT Network, his goal is to ensure that the 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 camera and overseen its operation in the context of TFRM-PSES, a Super-Earths scientific survey being conducted with the camera. His professional interests include robotic astronomy, image processing, searching for exoplanets 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. Dr. Yanyachi works closely 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 working for the Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya at the Montsec Astronomical Observatory. Pere is a specialist in high-quality astronomical imaging.

James Van Leeuwen is a technology consultant and entrepreneur helping communities and enterprises to leverage digital tools and networks. An astrophysicist by education, James has extensive experience in astrononomical research and a keen interest in enabling citizen science in these fields. James lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in southwest Alberta, Canada.

Technical and other information on the PHASTT Network and related projects is available at:


Project Contact
Michael Mazur
Lagårdsveien 131
4011 Stavanger
+47 9529 4141 (GMT+1)

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