KLENOT Project - European Contribution to Detecting and Tracking Near Earth Objects

Milos Tichy, Jana Ticha, Michal Kocer, Michaela Honkova, Klet Observatory, Zatkovo nabrezi 4, CZ-370 01 Ceske Budejovice, South Bohemia, Czech Republic

Near Earth Object research is an expanding field of astronomy, important both for solar system science and for protecting human society from asteroid and comet hazard. Consequently, interest in detecting, tracking, cataloguing and the physical characterizing of these bodies has continued to grow. The discovery rate of current NEO surveys reflects progressive improvement in a number of technical areas. An integral part of NEO discovery is astrometric follow-up fundamental for precise orbit computation and for the reasonable judging of future close encounters with the Earth including possible impact solutions.

The KLENOT Project of the Klet Observatory (South Bohemia, Czech Republic) is aimed especially at the confirmation, early follow-up, long-arc follow-up and recovery of Near Earth Objects. It ranks among the world´s most prolific professional NEO follow-up programmes. The 1.06-m KLENOT telescope, put into regular operation in 2002, is the largest telescope in Europe used exclusively for observations of asteroids and comets and full observing time is dedicated to the KLENOT team. Equipment, technology, software, observing strategy and results of the KLENOT Project obtained during its first phase from March 2002 to September 2008 are presented. They consist of thousands of precise astrometric measurements of Near Earth Objects and also three newly discovered Near Earth Asteroids.

A fundamental improvement of the KLENOT telescope was started in autumn 2008. The construction, first light and testing observations of this "new" KLENOT are planned in winter and spring 2008/2009. The new mount will substantially increase telescope-time efficiency, the number of observations, their accuracy and limiting magnitude. Future plans reflecting also the role of astrometric follow-up in connection with the next generation surveys will be also discussed.

Moreover, one of the most important duties of NEOs scientists and research institutions is to maintain contact with the general public and media. NEO related issues have outstanding educational value and outreach potential. Considering both results of the long-time observing program at the Klet Observatory and our experience in education programs we have decided to take part in outreach activities to bring clear, relevant and up to date informations about NEO research and hazard in the Czech Republic and the Central European region.

Poster on 1st IAA Planetary Defense Conference: Protecting Earth from Asteroids, 2009, Granada, Spain (in press)
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