The Pan-STARRS search for Near-Earth Objects

Earth continues to be hit by asteroids and comets. Fortunately, impacts by large objects are rare. Congress has asked NASA to find and establish orbits for at least 90% of all Near-Earth Objects with diameters greater than 140 meters. Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are defined as objects that come within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun. In other words, they are objects that may pass close to Earth, and may pose a hazard to Earth. They may be comets or asteroids.

The NASA Near-Earth Object Observations program funds most of the operational cost of the Pan-STARRS telescopes.

Pan-STARRS consists of two telescopes located near the summit of Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii. Each telescope has a diameter of 1.8 meters, and is equipped with a very large format camera. The Pan-STARRS1 camera has 1.38 Gigapixels, and the Pan-STARRS2 camera has 1.47 Gigapixels.  The field of view of each camera is approximately 3 degrees in diameter, and 7 square degrees in area. Pan-STARRS1 has been operating since 2010. Pan-STARRS2 is newer, and will be fully operational later in 2019.

Pan-STARRS spends most of its time searching for Near Earth Objects, and Pan-STARRS1 has become the leading NEO discovery telescope.

We are dynamically updating the discovery statistics from Pan-STARRS1. These statistics run from early 2014, when Pan-STARRS1 became dedicated to 100% searching for NEOs until present.