ATLAS#1 up and running on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Credit: ATLAS Team

ATLAS#1 up and running on the Hawaiian Island of Maui.
Credit: ATLAS Team

The first Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) telescope is now in operation on Haleakala – on the Hawaiian Island of Maui.

ATLAS is an asteroid impact early warning system being developed by the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA.

When ATLAS is completed in 2015, it will consist of two telescopes, 100 miles apart, which automatically scan the whole sky several times every night looking for moving objects.

The promise of ATLAS is that it can provide one day’s warning for a 30-kiloton “town killer,” a week for a 5-megaton “city killer,” and three weeks for a 100-megaton “county killer.”

Fine-tuning

The telescope on Haleakala “is working well and producing useful images,” notes a posting on the ATLAS website. “We anticipate full resolution after some adjustments are made to the Schmidt corrector. The mount also performs well though it will require some fine-tuning to achieve ATLAS’ stringent tracking specifications.”

The mount for the Haleakala observatory is lifted into the dome. Credit: ATLAS team

The mount for the Haleakala observatory is lifted into the dome.
Credit: ATLAS team

“All aspects of this whole system are very much under development right now. However, the existing system on Haleakala can survey the entire sky in a little more than one night, and we have begun accumulating images,” the ATLAS website update for July 30 adds.

ATLAS#1 telescope gently lowered into Haleakala observatory. Credit: ATLAS team

ATLAS#1 telescope gently lowered into Haleakala observatory.
Credit: ATLAS team

 

ATLAS Telescope #2 is to be situated on Mauna Loa.

In August, the ATLAS team is set to meet with representatives from NASA and South Africa during the International Astronomical Union meeting in Honolulu. Discussions are to focus on the possibility of a third ATLAS unit in South Africa.

One Response to “Asteroid Impact Early Warning System: First Scope Up and Running”

  • Thijs says:

    Hi Leonard,

    Nice website. First of all I wish you a happy newyear. I hope you would be so kind as to answer a question I have regarding ATLAS.

    I was wondering if there is any news on whether the third ATLAS unit will be installed in South Africa. And on the ATLAS website (which has not been updated for quite a while now) there is also discussion of a fourth ATLAS unit, any news on that.

    On the ATLAS website I also read this: “Sky Coverage : Unfortunately, a large portion of the sky toward the sun – about one quarter of the night sky – is impossible to look into from the ground without seeing daylight glare and losing sensitivity. (http://fallingstar.com/how_atlas_works.php)

    Does this mean some asteroids can simply not be detected by the system, or that they will be detected but only later? And would a potential thirth or fourth ATLAS unit solve this problem?

    Thanks in advance.

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