Asteroid Photometry with PIRATE: Optimizations and Techniques for Small Aperture Telescopes

Jackson, Samuel L.; Kolb, Ulrich C. and Green, Simon F. (2021). Asteroid Photometry with PIRATE: Optimizations and Techniques for Small Aperture Telescopes. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 133(1025), article no. 075003.



Small aperture telescopes provide the opportunity to conduct high frequency, targeted observations of near-Earth Asteroids that are not feasible with larger facilities due to highly competitive time allocation requirements. Observations of asteroids with these types of facilities often focus on rotational brightness variations rather than longer-term phase angle-dependent variations (phase curves) due to the difficulty of achieving high precision photometric calibration. We have developed an automated asteroid light curve extraction and calibration pipeline for images of moving objects from the 0.43 m Physics Innovations Robotic Telescope Explorer. This allows for the frequency and quality of observations required to construct asteroid phase curves. Optimizations in standard data reduction procedures are identified that may allow for similar small aperture facilities, constructed from commercially available/off-the-shelf components, to improve the image and subsequent data quality. A demonstration of the hardware and software capabilities is expressed through observation statistics from a 10 months observing campaign, and through the photometric characterization of near-Earth Asteroids 8014 (1990 MF) and 19764 (2000 NF5).

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