Seminar Series

Applied Astronomy: Optical Studies of Orbital Debris at Geosynchronous Orbit

Patrick Seitzer, University of Michigan

05 Jun 2014 - 15:30

The majority of artificial objects in Earth orbit are non-functional: inactive satellites, spent rocket boosters, and parts of spacecraft resulting from collisions and fragmentation events.  This population of orbital debris is increasing with time, and represents a collision risk to active spacecraft.  Studying the debris population at geosynchronous orbit (GEO, period = 23h56m) is a problem in applied optical astronomy. The orbital elements are constantly changing due to gravitational orbital perturbations from the Earth, Sun, and Moon, and solar radiation pressure.  I will show results from optical surveys of GEO debris conducted with the University of Michigan’s 0.6-m Curtis-Schmidt telescope and the 6.5-m Magellan telescopes.  In addition, photometry and spectroscopy of these objects can in principle provide a clue to their surface characteristics and possible material makeup.

LCO Seminar Series,
6740 Cortona Dr, Suite 102,
Goleta, CA 93117