PIKA Observing Program
About PIKA
We run a Comet and Asteroid Search Program named PIKA after a Slovene acronym. Since March 2003, the program is being operated on a new 60-cm, f/3.3 Cichocki telescope equipped with a Finger Lake 1k x 1k CCD detector. Telescope project funding has been covered in part by the Planetary Society Shoemaker Grant 2000.

The 60-cm Deltagraph is custom made, advanced technology, wide-field imaging system, designed for sky survey applications. All functions (pointing, imaging, focusing, filters exchange) are controlled by a single computer program written by Bojan Dintinjana. The system (operating in Linux) may work unattended from dusk to dawn. It may be operated either locally or remotely over the internet.

The goal of the project is to scan larger areas of sky for several times on each clear night and search them for the presence of any transient objects. An observing schedule, containing field coordinates, exposure time and number of scans is prepared for each night in advance and sent to the main computer. The image acquisition, processing and searching for new objects is fully automated. Images are analyzed with the Fitsblink software, written by Jure Skvarc. At the end of observing session, the suspect objects are checked.

Information about our old configuration is available here .

Search strategy
Search regions consist of arbitrary choosen number of fields which are calculated in advance. Each region is scanned three times during the night. Lists of objects are compared and asteroids are found on the basis of their motion. Suspected objects are visually examined with the Fitsblink program and immediately identified. New objects are followed-up on subsequent nights. The system is also used for the follow-up of NEO objects, posted on the MPC Confirmation Page. Since September 2004, we are using a new method of scanning along the great declination circles. Using the new method we were able to increase the sky coverage by a factor of 2, covering about 22 square degrees per hour using a strategy of three exposures per field of view. The results were more than satisfying: in less than one year of using this mode we found 4 NEOs, in spite of exceptional sky coverage by the professional survey programs, which operate under better skies and with wider fields of view and are therefore likely to find new NEOs before us.
Information system
Automated sky imaging yields a huge amount of data. Two important problems were solved by now in the field of information processing. Rapid identification of asteroids is achieved by a use of the asteroid_server, a program which provides a link between FITS images and a Lowell asteroid database. After an asteroid is found, it can be identified by a simple click on a button of the Fitsblink program. Several client programs which access the asteroid database were also developed by J. Skvarc.

Each night of scanning adds hundreds of images to our database. All images are compressed and saved to DVDs.

List of PIKA discoveries.

Home | Copyrights © 1998-2007