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Photometric Studies of GEO Orbital DebrisThe photometric signature of a debris object can be useful in determining what the physical characteristics of a piece of debris are. We report on optical observations in multiple filters of debris at geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO). Our sample is taken from GEO objects discovered in a survey with the University of Michigan's 0.6-m aperture Schmidt telescope MODEST (for Michigan Orbital DEbris Survey Telescope), and then followed up in real-time with the Cerro Tololo Inter- American Observatory (CTIO) 0.9-m for orbits and photometry. Our goal is to determine 6 parameter orbits and measure colors for all objects fainter than R=15th magnitude that are discovered in the MODEST survey. At this magnitude the distribution of observed angular rates changes significantly from that of brighter objects. There are two objectives: 1. Estimate the orbital distribution of objects selected on the basis of two observational criteria: brightness (magnitude) and angular rates. 2. Obtain magnitudes and colors in standard astronomical filters (BVRI) for comparison with reflectance spectra of likely spacecraft materials. What is the faint debris likely to be? More than 90 calibrated sequences of R-B-V-I-R magnitudes for a sample of 50 objects have been obtained with the CTIO 0.9-m. For objects that do not show large brightness variations, the colors are largely redder than solar in both B-R and R-I. The width of the color distribution may be intrinsic to the nature of the surfaces, but also could be that we are seeing irregularly shaped objects and measuring the colors at different times with just one telescope. For a smaller sample of objects we have observed with synchronized CCD cameras on the two telescopes. The CTIO 0.9-m observes in B, and MODEST in R. The CCD cameras are electronically linked together so that the start time and duration of observations are the same to better than 50 milliseconds. Thus the B-R color is a true measure of the surface of the debris piece facing the telescopes for that observation. Any change in color reflects a real change in the debris surface. We will compare our observations with models and laboratory measurements of selected surfaces.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Seitzer, Patrick
(Michigan Univ. MI, United States)
Rodriquez-Cowardin, Heather M.
(Jacobs Technologies Engineering Science Contract Group Houston, TX, United States)
Barker, Ed
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Abercromby, Kira J.
(California Polytechnic State Univ. San Luis Obispo, CA, United States)
Foreman, Gary
(Michigan Univ. MI, United States)
Horstman, Matt
(Engineering Research and Consulting, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2009
Subject Category
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
AMOS Technical Conference(Maui, HI)
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