The two 1.8-meter diameter Pan-STARRS telescopes on Haleakala perform wide-area surveys, using the largest digital cameras in the world, each with almost 1.5 billion pixels. The PS1 survey, completed in 2014 and now available on-line, covered the whole sky north of -30 degrees declination at least 60 times, yielding an extensive sky catalog and wealth of data on variable and moving objects.
Pan-STARRS now spends much of its time conducting a NASA-sponsored search of the sky for potentially dangerous asteroids that may hit Earth in the future. The current strength of Pan-STARRS is detection of larger Near-Earth Asteroids, for which Earth impact would be catastrophic. The aim is to detect these far enough in advance that there is time to launch a mission to deflect them to avoid impact.
In October 2017, while searching the sky for Near-Earth Objects, Pan-STARRS discovered the first Interstellar Object. The object was named `Oumuamua, which means “scout” or “messenger” in the Hawaiian language. This object was probably ejected by another stellar system in our Galaxy,. It moved rapidly through our Solar System, passing quickly by the Sun and Earth. There are likely many other Interstellar Objects, but discovering them is challenging. Pan-STARRS is also a prolific discoverer of new comets, and currently finds over half of all new comets.
The acronym “ATLAS” stands for Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System”, The project consists of a pair of comparatively small observatories located on Haleakala and on Mauna Loa, about 70 miles apart, Although not as sensitive as Pan-STARRS, ATLAS has a much wider field of view, and can scan the sky much faster.
ATLAS’s main priority is the detection of asteroids that pose an imminent danger to the Earth; it also is a very powerful tool for detecting supernova explosions.
There are plans to add two more telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere.
Funded by the NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office, Pan-STARRS and ATLAS are both significant contributors in the first step of planetary defense: the detection of hazardous asteroids before they hit us
David Sanders and Josh Barnes
David Sanders and Josh Barnes are both members of the >200-strong international COSMOS survey team. The COSMOS survery is an in-depth study of a 1.4 square degree extragalactic field that was first mapped in detail by the Hubble Space Telescope. It has since been mapped in detail at radio, ultraviolet, infrared, submillimeter and X-ray wavelengths. The COSMOS survey has produced some of the best-yet evidence for dark matter.
Ben Shappee is a founder member of the ASAS-SN team (” All-sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae”) which operates a global network of fully robotic telescopes that survey the entire sky (northern and southern hemispheres) every 20 hours. ASAS-SN is less sensitive than ATLAS or PanSTARRS but scans the sky more frequently. With ASAS-SN units in Hawaii, Texas, two in Chile, South Africa, and China, ASAS-SN is robust against bad weather conditions. ASAS-SN is a prolific discoverer of Galactic and extragalactic transient objects such as supernovae, stellar flares and tidal disruption events (when stars are ripped apart by a supermassive black hole).