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- The Arecibo Observatory at the Upcoming 240th American Astronomical Society Meeting06 Apr, 2022
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Byadmin09 September 2020 Planetary
Understanding how the gravitational field around a comet or asteroid could affect an orbiting spacecraft is extremely important for the exploration of those objects.
In a recent publication of the Planetary and Space Science journal, AO scientist Dr. Flaviane Venditti and her team tested a new mapping technique to identify the orbits around comets and asteroids that are least affected by the objects’ gravity.
“Knowing which orbits would generate the least perturbation on a spacecraft could minimize the need for station-keeping maneuvers, lowering the cost and simplifying the mission logistics,” Dr. Venditti explained.
“Knowing which orbits would generate the least perturbation on a spacecraft could minimize the need for station-keeping maneuvers, lowering the cost and simplifying the mission logistics,” - Dr. Flaviane Venditti, Planetary Scientist at Arecibo Observatory
Importantly, the team developed these orbital maps using more realistic shapes for the asteroids and comets, rather than assuming they were spherical. Their analysis also assessed how easily a particle’s (or a spacecraft’s) orbit around the targets could be changed from its original path.
“The planetary radar observations we conduct with the Arecibo Observatory are highly complementary to these dynamical studies,” expressed Dr. Venditti. “One of the main goals of planetary radar is to determine the physical properties of asteroids, like their shapes and sizes. These properties are needed before we can computationally model the gravitational environment of those objects.”
Dr. Venditti concluded, “Thus, planetary radar observations and theoretical dynamical studies build on one another and are both critical for assisting with space exploration and mission planning.”
The Arecibo Planetary Radar Program is funded by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program. The Arecibo Observatory is operated by the University of Central Florida (UCF) in partnership with Universidad Ana G. Mendez - Universidad Metropolitana and Yang Enterprises Inc., under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Article written by Dr. Tracy Becker - AO Collaborator / SwRI Research Scientist
Head of Planetary Radar team
Keywords: arecibo, observatory, planetary, orbits, venditti, asteroid, gravitational, field, exploration