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7th European Conference on Space Debris

The Small Size Debris Population at GEO from Optical Observations

Patrick Seitzer1,Ed Barker2,Brent Buckalew3,Andrew Burkhardt4,Heather Cowardin5,James Frith5,Catherine Kaleida6,Susan M. Lederer7,Chris H. Lee1
University of Michigan1LZ Technology2Jacobs Jets3University of Virginia4University of Texas El Paso - Jacobs Jets5Space Telescope Science Institute6NASA Orbital Debris Program Office7

Document details

Publishing year2017 PublisherESA Space Debris Office Publishing typeConference Name of conference7th European Conference on Space Debris
Pagesn/a Volume
T. Flohrer, F. Schmitz


We have estimated the geosynchronous orbit (GEO) debris population at sizes smaller than 10 cm using optical observations with the 6.5-m Magellan telescope 'Walter Baade' at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The IMACS f/2 imaging camera with a 0.5-degree diameter field of view has been used in small area surveys of the GEO regime to study the population of optically faint GEO debris. The goal is to estimate the population of GEO debris that is fainter than can be studied with 1-meter class telescopes. A significant population of objects fainter than R = 19th magnitude has been found. These objects have observed with angular rates consistent with circular orbits and orbital inclinations up to 15 degrees at GEO. A sizeable number of these objects have significant brightness variations (“flashes”) during the 5-second exposure, which suggest rapid changes in the albedo-projected size product. We compare the size of our optically faint population with the numbers of GEO objects in the public catalog and the numbers found at brighter magnitudes by smaller telescopes.