Rapid Characterization of Geosynchronous Space Debris with 5-color Near-IR Photometry

Pearce, E.; Alyson Ford, H.; Schildknecht, Thomas; Reddy, V.; Block, A.D.; Rockowitz, K. (September 2017). Rapid Characterization of Geosynchronous Space Debris with 5-color Near-IR Photometry. In: Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference. Curran Associates

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The characterization of deep space debris has posed a significant challenge in SSA. To be most operationally effective, characterization must be performed quickly and under non-ideal operational conditions, generally using non-resolved techniques. The use of multi-color photometry and the resultant color indices in the near and short-
wave IR offer the potential to rapidly discriminate between debris and intact space objects such as rocket bodies and satellites. Specifically, the color indices surrounding the near-IR Z band (0.83-0.925 μm) show promise to differentiate materials while providing a more practical data collection opportunity when compared to spectroscopy. Similar techniques have been demonstrated in the astronomical community to discriminate between different classes of near Earth asteroids. The diagnostic attributes of the Z band are particularly compelling as similar diagnostic color indices can be measured using visible telescopes and the corresponding Sloan
z’ band. Initial results of an extensive survey of cataloged debris, high area
-to-mass ratio (HAMR) objects, rocket bodies, and intact satellites with the
UK IR Telescope (UKIRT) Wide Field Camera (WFCAM) are presented to assess the efficacy of these techniques. As a test case, an ensemble of Russian SL-12 rocket bodies (SL-12 RB) discarded in geosynchronous orbit has been studied. Using the
techniques described above, one of these rocket bodies (2012-012D, SCN 38104) has been identified having anomalous near-IR spectral characteristics compared to
all others in the study. Additionally, this object experiences unusual secular perturbations in its post-mission orbital elements.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Astronomy

UniBE Contributor:

Schildknecht, Thomas


500 Science > 520 Astronomy




Curran Associates




Alessandro Vananti

Date Deposited:

08 Dec 2017 10:18

Last Modified:

11 Feb 2019 12:20

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