Pan-STARRS, the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, has begun operations with a working prototype – PS1 in Haleakala, Maui. The final version of this effort – PS4 – will be four times as powerful as the prototype. A very impressive piece of hardware, indeed! PS1 has a 1.8 meter primary mirror with a CCD array that has a total 1.4 gigapixels and covers a 3 degree field of view. It will map over 6000 square degrees of the night sky each night!
The mission for PS1, besides being a proving ground for the complete system, is to monitor the Solar System for near Earth objects or NEOs. These include asteroids and comets, and with Pan-STARRS’ ability to detect objects down to a magnitude of 24 (over 29 with some averaging of images taken over a few years) it is going to unveil an enormous number of NEOs — how about an estimated 100,000 asteroids/comets, along with 5 billion stars and 500 million galaxies over the next 3 years!
Pan-STARRS will also be doing active research in astronomy and cosmology in addition to scoping-out our local neighborhood – inside and outside our Solar System, where it will search for red and brown dwarf stars. But, with regard to the search for Earth-crossing NEOs, Pan-STARRS will be our first line of defense in identifying threats. We need to start developing plans to use this information should the worst case scenario occur.
For more details check out my article on Pan-STARRS on www.Brighthub.com.
Till next time,