Volunteers find 1,031 new asteroids in Hubble images

(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers summed up the results of the civil science project Hubble Asteroid Hunter, in which everyone was looking for tracks of asteroids in the images of the Hubble telescope.

A total of 1701 objects were found, of which 1031 bodies turned out to be previously unknown asteroids. The vast majority of asteroids are bodies from the Main Belt and are located near the plane of the ecliptic.

Volunteers find 1 031 new asteroids in Hubble images 2
steroid track (190838) 2001 SE10 against the background of the Crab Nebula

The Hubble Asteroid Hunter project was launched in June 2019 based on the citizen science portal Zooniverse. As part of it, everyone could study archival images of the Hubble telescope cameras for 31 years of observations, which were selected in such a way that the observation epoch and the size of the sky area for these images could be compared with the calculated orbits of asteroids and predict the appearance of their tracks on the images.

The goal of the project was both to search for dim asteroids and update statistics on similar bodies in the solar system, and to train neural networks that will automatically analyze images from telescopes in the future.

A team of astronomers led by Sandor Kruk of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics published the results of the project, which is the first large-scale study of the Hubble archive to search for small bodies in the solar system.

They focused on 37,000+ images taken between April 2002 and March 2021 using Hubble’s ACS and WFC3 cameras. As a result, the scientists were able to assemble a database for training an automatic image classifier.

Volunteers find 1 031 new asteroids in Hubble images 1
Tracks of asteroid (213568) 2002 LX55 against the background of the spiral galaxy NGC 5468

A total of 1,701 asteroid tracks were detected in the images, of which 1,031 objects were not found in the database of the Minor Planet Center.

Of the asteroids found, 95 percent are from the Main Belt and only 5 percent are from the Hungarian family or near-Earth asteroids. The magnitudes of the observed bodies were in the range of 18–25, while previously unknown bodies were, on average, 1.6 magnitudes fainter compared to known objects.

96 percent of the asteroids found are distributed near the plane of the ecliptic (within 30 degrees from it), and the rest of the objects have orbits with a high inclination.

The calculated average density for asteroids with a brightness less than 24.5 magnitude is 80 asteroids per square degree near the ecliptic plane and decreases to one 1 asteroid per square degree for high ecliptic latitudes.


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