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Earth Oriented Space Science and Technology

Master’s Thesis
Setting an Observational Upper Limit to the
Number Density of Interstellar Objects
in collaboration
with the
by
Toni Engelhardt
toni.engelhardt@tum.de
- Supervisors -
Dr. Robert Jedicke (IfA), Prof. Urs Hugentobler (TUM)
January 31
st
, 2014
Abstract
Over the course of this work three major accomplishments could be booked. With the aid
of Pan-STARRS 1 data comprising ∼27 month of observations from three large asteroid-
and comet surveys (3π, Medium Deep Field and Solar System Survey) the main goal could
be completed to first ever set an observational upper limit to the number density of In-
terstellar Objects (ISOs) based on actual telescope pointings (fields), system efficiency and
the fact of non-detection. The 90% Poisson Confidence of the limit versus slope parameter
α and limiting absolute magnitude H

of the Size Frequency Distribution (SFD) has been
computed and plotted for inert objects (no activity) as well as the case of cometary activity
similar to Oort cloud comets.
For this task a sophisticated ISO model was developed. It includes gravitational focusing
effects and maintains correctness over a 10 year timeframe starting January 1st, 2005,
covering the entire Pan-STARRS survey as well as the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), to date
the two most successful experiments regarding asteroid- and comet discoveries. The model
was validated in a detailed analysis of velocity, energy and orbital element distribution of
the synthetic objects. It could be shown that ISO orbits are more likely to have high orbital
inclination and that the eccentricity distribution peaks at higher values for larger accessible
volumes. Findings like these help to improve search patterns for future surveys dedicated
to ISO discovery.
Furthermore, the efficiency of the current configuration of the Pan-STARRS system
was determined with which it recognises objects in exposures depending on their apparent
magnitude. Efficiencies were assessed for each of the 6 spectral filters on 3 levels of processing
within Pan-STARRS’ Moving Object Processing system (MOPS). These tools were used to
conduct a simulation replicating the Pan-STARRS survey and determine the volume that
has been efficiently searched for ISOs over the telescope lifetime. With the assumption
of inert objects it amounts to only 42.9AU
3
while the inclusion of Oort cloud comet-like
activity yields an observed volume of 1, 411AU
3
, using a slope parameter α of 0.5 and a
limiting apparent magnitude H

of 19 (∼ 1km diameter) for the SFD. The numbers can be
directly converted to an upper limit for the ISO number density of 5.4 × 10
−02
AU
−3
for
inert objects and 1.6 ×10
−03
AU
−3
respectively for activite ISOs.
These results dismantle expectations of a much tighter limit to be set by Pan-STARRS,
encouraged by previous estimations on the number density limit with less powerful telescope
surveys like for instance the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR). The direct
conclusion is that the capability of state-of-the-art telescopes to discover ISOs was over-
estimated in the past.
Contents
1 Introduction 1
2 Interstellar Objects (ISOs) 3
2.1 Distribution & Velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
2.2 Optical Properties and Activity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
2.3 ISO Number Density Estimates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
3 Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) telescope 11
3.1 Gigapixel Camera . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
3.2 Fill Factor F . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
3.3 Photometric System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
3.4 PS1 Surveys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
4 Moving Object Processing System (MOPS) 17
4.1 Image Processing Pipeline (IPP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
4.2 Detections, Tracklets & Derived Objects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
4.3 Digest Score . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
4.4 System Efficiency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
4.5 Pan-STARRS Survey Simulations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
5 Interstellar Object Model 29
5.1 Object Generation and Propagation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
5.2 Orbit Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
5.3 ISO Model Statistics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
6 Observational Number Density Limit for ISOs 41
6.1 Poisson Statistics of a Non-Detection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
6.2 Determination of
¯
V with a MOPS simulation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
6.3 Assignment of a Size Frequency Distribution (SFD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
6.4 Pre-computation of Digest Scores . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
6.5 90% Confidence Limit (C.L.) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
7 Results & Discussion 53
8 Outlook 55
v
vi CONTENTS
Bibliography 57
List of Figures 61
Declaration of Authorship 65
Acknowledgment 67
Acronyms
C.L. Confidence Limit.
CCD Charge Coupled Device.
CSS Catalina Sky Survey.
IEOV Independent Effectively Observed Volume.
IfA Institute for Astronomy Hawai’i.
IPP Image Processing Pipeline.
ISO Interstellar Object.
LINEAR Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research.
LSST Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.
MBO Main Belt Object.
MOPS Moving Object Processing System.
MPC Minor Planet Center.
NEO Near Earth Object.
NIR Near Infrared.
NSB Night Sky Background.
OTA Orthogonal Transfer Array.
OTCCD Orthogonal Transfer Charge-Coupled Device.
Pan-STARRS Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Re-
sponse System.
PS1 Pan-STARRS 1.
S/N Signal-to-Noise ratio.
S3M Synthetic Solar System Model.
SFD Size Frequency Distribution.
TTI Transit Time Interval.
vii
viii Acronyms
to date zero Interstellar Objects have been discovered...
ix
x Acronyms
Chapter 1
Introduction
It was not until recently that science set focus on asteroids and comets in the night sky.
Single objects were studied for centuries, discovered by accident or during a close approach to
Earth. But their faint luminosity at larger distances require modern light sensor technology
and high computation capacities to achieve reasonable detection rates in order to study
their distribution. With the evolution of CCD chips and tens of thousand discoveries every
year the picture of our solar system has quite changed since Edmond Halley computed the
orbit of his famous comet in the beginning of the 18
th
century [15]. The Asteroid Belt was
discovered, Jupiter’s Trojans and the Kuiper Belt, just to mention a few of the many known
families of celestial bodies that orbit the Sun.
Today several experiments like the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR),
the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response Sys-
tem (Pan-STARRS) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which is expected
to see first light in the early 2020s are dedicated to find and catalog representatives of the
asteroid- and comet populations in the solar system. The prime motivation for the recent
endeavours in discovering especially Near Earth Objects (NEOs) certainly is the hazard
that is constantly imposed to Earth’s inhabitants in the case of an impact as just recently
impressively demonstrated by a rather small meteor exploding over the city of Chelyabinsk,
Russia, in February 2013 [35] or the Chicxulub meteorite that supposedly initiated the ex-
tinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago [16][33]. But it is not only the thread they
cause which makes asteroids and comets worthwhile to study. Their distribution and com-
position comprises valuable information about the dynamical evolution of our solar system,
from its birth to the state we currently observe. Rather new theories suggest that comets
might have brought water to the surface of our planet or even life itself, hitchhiking on an
asteroid billions of miles from another world.
In 1950 Jan Hendrik Oort [27] published a revolutionary work about a hypothetic spher-
ical reservoir of objects orbiting the Sun in a distance of 50,000 to 150,000 AU, more than
1,000 times further than the Kuiper Belt. He therewith first explained the random orien-
tations of orbital planes that were observed for long-periodic comets with nearly parabolic
trajectories. While there is still no definite proof the existence of the so-called Oort Cloud is
nowadays widely accepted in the scientific community. Simulations conducted by Charnoz
and Morbidelli [4][5] reconstructing the evolution of the solar system support Oort’s work
1
2 CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION
showing that during orbit migration of the gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune
the majority of all planetesimals
1
were ejected from the inner solar system onto highly ec-
centric orbits. McGlynn and Chapman [24] comprise results from several publications and
conclude that the ejection process to form the Oort cloud was very inefficient and that for
every planetesimal reaching stable Oort cloud orbit 30-100 objects have been lifted onto
hyperbolic trajectories, leaving the solar system ultimately for interstellar space.
This work is the first ever attempt to set an upper limit to the number density of ISOs
in the local neighbourhood of our solar system based on actual observations and the fact
of non-detection. The space density of ISOs yields valuable information about the ejection
processes occurring during the formation of solar systems. It can for example be an indicator
for the fraction of stars that harbour giant planets capable of ejecting planetesimals.
In chapter 2 I will give an overview of ISOs, what we know about them and related
work. Chapters 3 and 4 introduce the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope and its image processing
system and show how the total system efficiency was determined. Chapter 5 describes how
a new ISO model was created suitable for the determination of an observational limit of the
number density of ISOs as depicted in chapter 6.
1
The term planetesimal originates from the planet formation process in a protoplanetary disk where
cosmic dust particles collide to form larger objects. All objects left over from this process that did not
collide with a planet or the Sun are referred to as planetesimal.
Chapter 2
Interstellar Objects (ISOs)
Per Definition the term ISO comprises all celestial bodies that are gravitationally not bound
to a star. In commonly used terminology however and in this thesis it is used only for a
subset of these objects, namely interstellar asteroids and comets within the Milky Way
galaxy. They might orbit the galactic center but traverse solar systems they encounter in
almost all cases on hyperbolic trajectories with an eccentricity significantly larger than 1
(Figure 2.1).
Figure 2.1: Principal sketch of different orbit types, depending on eccentricity e. An orbit with e = 0 is
called circular (not illustrated here). 0 < e < 1 results in an elliptical orbit, e = 1 in a parabolic trajectory
and every eccentricity greater than 1 in a hyperbolic one.
So far not a single ISO was detected directly as such. Despite the fact of non-detection
the latest models of the distribution of ISOs predict number density values that exceed the
populations of planets and stars in the galaxy by several magnitudes. Due to their faint
luminosity state-of-the-art telescopes (see section 1) can detect ISOs only during a passage
through the inner solar system. The simulation conducted for this work shows that out of
1 million ISOs with diameter larger than 1km passing the solar system within 50 AU over
a timespan of 10 years a 842 day survey (∼27 month) conducted by Pan-STARRS - the
3
4 CHAPTER 2. INTERSTELLAR OBJECTS (ISOS)
most powerful comet hunting telescope to date - would only reveal less than 100 of them
assuming no activity and less than 1, 000 if cometary activity is included in the model (this
is with slope parameter α = 0.5 and limiting absolute magnitude of the SFD H

= 19, see
section 6.5, figures 6.5 and 6.6).
Due to the technical limits of detecting passing hyperbolic objects another approach has
been conceived. In very rare occasions an ISO can be captured by a giant planet via three-
body interaction. Simulations conducted by Torbett [40] show that in our solar system
only Jupiter is capable of scattering a hyperbolic object into a bound orbit. With a number
density estimation of ∼ 1.1×10
−3
AU
−3
they calculated that such an event would occur with
an average rate of about 60 million years. Objects with unusual orbits frequently draw the
attention of astronomers. Comet 96P/Machholz is the most famous candidate for a captured
ISO. It is the only known short-periodic comet with both high orbital inclination and high
eccentricity [32] and besides its unusual orbit it also has a nearly unique composition. It
was found to be carbon- and cyanogen-depleted [31], which implies an origin different from
other known long-period comets.
Figure 2.2: Comet 96P/Machholz as seen by STEREO-A in April 2007.
Image taken from Wikimedia.
Nevertheless, backward orbit propagation is very inaccurate over long timespans. Nar-
row keyholes decide whether an object came from interstellar space, the Oort Cloud or
somewhere else. Uncertainties in the orbit determination iterated over many revolutions
become too large so that so far neither 96P/Machholz nor any other object could unam-
biguously be identified as a captured ISO.
2.1. DISTRIBUTION & VELOCITY 5
2.1 Distribution & Velocity
The spatial as well as the velocity distribution of ISOs throughout our galaxy are not
known. Still, all authors referenced in this thesis assume a homogenous spatial distribution
at least in the local neighbourhood of our solar system. The basis for this consideration
is the assumption that our solar system is an average star system and that most of the
surrounding star systems also eject planetesimals into interstellar space. While the absolute
number of ejected objects remains speculative due to various factors outlined in section 2.3,
the assumption of a homogenous distribution has been established and was adopted for the
ISO model generated in this work (chapter 5).
When an ISO is ejected from a star system it is decelerated due to the gravitational pull
of the host star. Once the object has left the gravitational sphere of influence of the host
star its relative velocity with respect to the host star is reduced to a rather small value if
one compares it to the velocity of the host star with respect to the Sun. We therefore can
conclude that the velocity distribution of ISOs is comparable to the velocity distribution
of surrounding stars relative to the Sun, which was computed by Dehnen and Binney [6].
With Hipparcos data they measured velocities in the order of ∼ 10 −40km/s.
Additionally to spatial and velocity distribution there is a third one usually associated
with asteroid and comet populations, the Size Frequency Distribution (SFD). It gives a
relative measure for the probability of an ISO having a certain size and is of great importance
since the size of an object determines its brightness. Dohnanyi [8] created a collisional model
of interplanetary debris and found that after a certain time an equilibrium state is reached
where the SFD does not change anymore. It can be parameterised as an exponential function
of the form
ρ(H) = ρ
0
10
α(H−H
0
)
(2.1)
where H is the absolute brightness of an object. It corresponds to its visual brightness if
it were observed from the heliocenter in 1AU distance from Sun. It is given in the logarithmic
scale of magnitudes [mag]. The smaller H the brighter the object (−∞< H < ∞). Given
shape and albedo (reflectivity of the object) brightness is a direct measure of the object’s size
(see section 2.2, figure 2.4). ρ
0
is the density of ISOs with absolute magnitude H
0
. Together
these two parameters determine the scale of the SFD. α is the so-called slope parameter, it
determines the steepness of the function. Dohnanyi [8] computed the theoretical value of
α = 0.5 as equilibrium state between grinding and fusion of planetesimals. Parker et al. [28]
measured slightly different SFDs for various families of Main Belt Objects (MBOs). Due to
simplicity however for this work the simple model given in equation 2.1 was used together
with various different values for α. Figure 2.3 gives some example SFD curves for different
slope parameters.
2.2 Optical Properties and Activity
Since no ISO has ever been observed their composition, their optical properties and the
activity to expect when they approach the Sun are unknown. However, following the argu-
ments that lead to the assumption of their existence - namely the theory that the evolution
6 CHAPTER 2. INTERSTELLAR OBJECTS (ISOS)
Figure 2.3: Illustration of different slope parameters. The curves are labeled with α values from 0.3 to
0.7. ρ0 was selected to be 1 for this plot at H0 = 19.1, which corresponds to a diameter of 1km for an
albedo of 0.04.
of most other star systems is comparable to the one of our own - we can conclude that their
properties are comparable to the ones of objects that were ejected from our own solar sys-
tem. As outlined in the introduction not all objects that were ejected left the solar system
for good. A small fraction is still orbiting the Sun in the Oort cloud and now and then
perturbations induced by passing large objects (e.g. stars, brown dwarfs, giant planets) or
galactic tides send them back to the inner solar system where we can observe them and
analyse their composition. These objects were found to be composed mostly of hydrogen- or
oxygen-based ices such as water, methane, ethane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide
[13]. Sweeping up cosmic dust and rocks from the protoplanetary disc
1
surrounding their
host star the comets become matt and dark so that their reflectivity (albedo) is typically
very low. For all calculations throughout this thesis a value of 0.04 has been used. With a
fixed albedo and the common simplification of all asteroids and comets being spherical their
brightness is only dependent on diameter. Fowler and Chillemi [10] derived the following
1
A protoplanetary disk is a rotating circumstellar disk of dense gas surrounding a young newly formed
star, a T Tauri star, or Herbig Ae/Be star [Wikipedia]
2.2. OPTICAL PROPERTIES AND ACTIVITY 7
relation for inert asteroids
d =
1347.4

p 10
H
5
km (2.2)
where d is the diameter of the asteroid, p represents the reflectivity (albedo) and H its
absolute brightness. The equation is illustrated in figure 2.4 and also applicable for comets
if the heliocentric distance is large.
Figure 2.4: Brightness versus Size for astroids according to [10], with an albedo p = 0.04. The plot was
generated with equation 2.2.
Once the comet approaches the Sun it is likely that it will show activity. Incident solar
radiation causes some of the frozen material to melt and vaporise, creating a halo around
the comet. The so-called coma reflects sunlight and can increase the visual brightness
of a comet by several magnitudes. In this case equation 2.2 looses integrity and has to
be adapted. There is no universal recipe to predict the activity of a comet accurately.
While some show high activity already at heliocentric distances larger than 9 AU, like
for instance comet ISON, others become active only at closer distances or not at all, e.g.
2005 VX3. In general the activity of a comet decreases with every close approach to the
Sun. ”Fresh” comets, which get close to the heliocenter for the first time usually show
8 CHAPTER 2. INTERSTELLAR OBJECTS (ISOS)
very high activity as observed for instance for Oort cloud comets with nearly hyperbolic
trajectories. Short-periodic comets in contrary increase only little in brightness since they
already lost big amounts of outgasing material over many revolutions. Just like Oort cloud
comets ISOs approach the Sun for the first time and we can therefore assume high activity.
The following estimation for ISO activity was suggested by Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons from
the Queen’s University Belfast. He is an expert in the field of comets and a collaborator
for a paper that will be released about this work. He used equation 2.2 together with an
estimation on the correlation between sublimation rate and absolute brightness to derive a
corrected absolute magnitude for the case of high activity
H
a
= 1.6H −19.9 −4.1 log
10
f (2.3)
where f is the fraction of the sun-facing area of the comet sublimating material. For
highly active ISOs f = 1. Equation 2.3 therefore reads
H
a
= 1.6H −19.9 (2.4)
The equation does not include any dependency on heliocentric distance and therefore
delivers absurd results if we do not constrain it. From comets like ISON we have learned
that highly active comets show activity from distances around 9AU. Applying equation
2.4 for heliocentric distances smaller than 10AU and assuming no cometary activity at all
for everything further was regarded as suitable approximation. Therefore, throughout the
context of this thesis we use the corrected absolute magnitude
H
a
= (1.6H −19.9) H(10AU −R) (2.5)
for all calculations incorporating cometary activity, where H denotes the Heaviside-
function and R the heliocentric distance of the object.
2.3 ISO Number Density Estimates
Different approaches have been pursued to estimate the number density of ISOs in inter-
stellar space. The most common method is to estimate the number of objects that were
ejected from our own solar system and associate it with the number density of star systems
in the galaxy. Using this simple technique McGlynn and Chapman [24] derived a number
density of ∼ 1.1 × 10
−3
AU
−3
. With the same approach Jewitt [19] calculated a similar
number of 10
−3
AU
−3
while Sen and Rama [34] claim to use a more advanced estimate for
the number of stars and predict an ISO density of ∼ 1.6 ×10
−4
AU
−3
. Francis [11] used a 3
year sample of the LINEAR survey (1999-2002) and the non-detection of ISOs to set a 95%
Poisson Confidence Limit on the maximum number density of ISOs. Depending on the used
comet population he derived two different values, 6 × 10
−4
AU
−3
for the population given
by Hughes [18] and 9×10
−4
AU
−3
for a population according to Everhart [9], both of which
are derived from Oort cloud comet observations. He estimates that an extension of the
sample of observations until the end of 2004 could reduced the limit to 3−4.5×10
−4
AU
−3
.
He also used a reduced Oort cloud population and therefore a reduced ISO ejection rate
to compute an estimate of the ISO number density with a method conceived by Stern [36].
2.3. ISO NUMBER DENSITY ESTIMATES 9
He estimated 1.4 ×10
−6
AU
−3
< ρ
ISO
< 4.7 ×10
−5
AU
−3
. Moro-Mart´ın et al. [25] indicate
that these numbers are too high due to negligence of several factors including stellar mass,
presence of giant planets in the star system etc. With their improved approximations they
derive a number density of 10
−10
to 10
−6
AU
−3
.
For the future space missions like Kepler and Gaia are expected to bring more insight
on the distribution and dynamic of stars throughout the galaxy and the actual fraction of
star systems that harbour giant planets. However, all estimations mentioned above - with
(partly) exception of Francis [11] - rely purely on vague models and are not supported by
measurements. Therefore, alternative methods have been conceived to actually measure
the number density of ISOs. Jura [20] estimated the number density of ISOs by measuring
helium-dominated atmospheres of white dwarfs. Impacting ISOs change the composition of
the atmosphere of the star in a measurable manner so that a spectral analysis can be used
together with models of the cooling process to calculate the impact rate of ISOs and therefore
the average space density given the dynamics. Another study conducted by Zubovas et al.
[42] suggests that certain Sgr A* flares could be induced by asteroids or comets with radii
larger than 10km. A count of the flares over a certain time period would yield an estimate
for the number density of ISOs as well. Both approaches are not elaborate enough yet to
produce concrete number density estimates for given conditions.
Figure 2.5 illustrates all mentioned predictions and limits of the ISO number density
over a timeline. It is notable that the estimates decline over time. The reasons are to be
found in the use of more advanced models including a better understanding of the ejection
process of planetesimals in star systems, which is for instance dependent on the presence
of giant planets, and a more detailed number density estimation and classification of star
systems in the Milky Way.
10 CHAPTER 2. INTERSTELLAR OBJECTS (ISOS)
Figure 2.5: glsISO number density estimates over time. The blue shaded areas show a 95% Poisson
Confidence Limit on the maximum number density of ISOs determined by Francis [11] with a 3 year
sample of the LINEAR survey (1999-2002). The darker blue patch corresponds to the limit computed with
the actual data sample. It is slightly variable depending on the used comet population. The bottom edge
represents the limit for a Hughes [18] population of 6 ×10
−4
AU
−3
and the top edge the limit for a
Everhart [9] population of 9 ×10
−4
AU
−3
. He suggests that since there hasn’t been a discovery with
LINEAR until the end of 2004 with a comparable sky coverage the limit could be adjusted to lower values
between 3 −4.5 ×10
−4
AU
−3
, represented in the figure with the lighter blue patch.
Chapter 3
Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) telescope
Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) is the first operational prototype telescope of the Panoramic Survey
Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS), currently under development by
the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) of the University of Hawai’i. It is located atop Mauna
Haleakal¯a on the Island of Maui, at an elevation of 10,023ft (3,055m) above sea level [1].
Figure 3.1: Pan-STARRS 1 telescope atop Mauna Haleakal¯ a during twilight.
Image taken from the PS1 Science Consortium website: http://ps1sc.org.
Its primary mission is to detect potentially hazardous asteroids. For this delicate task
PS1 combines a wide field of view (7 square degree) with a high resolution of 1.4 Giga pixels.
It operates in the visible spectrum and Near Infrared (NIR) and was designed according to
economic prospects [21]. In general the price for a telescope grows exponentially with its
primary mirror diameter, offset by the cost for the camera and focusing unit. The minimum
of the performance versus cost curve resulted for the mission objectives of Pan-STARRS
in a design of 4 similar telescopes with an aperture of 1.8m, f/4.4 focusing on the same
portion of sky [17]. The result is equivalent to a 3.6m telescope, but much cheaper. At the
moment it is not clear if the complete array will ever be funded but its predecessor Pan-
11
12 CHAPTER 3. PAN-STARRS 1 (PS1) TELESCOPE
STARRS 2 is completely assembled and already saw first in the end 2013. The coupled use
of both telescopes by the beginning of 2014 will significantly increase the limiting magnitude
of currently 21.6mag. But already in the current configuration Pan-STARRS is the most
successful asteroid- and comet hunting telescope in the world. After almost 3 years of
operation it discovered more than 800 NEOs, roughly 40,000 MBOs and almost 50 comets.
It also reported 7.2 million asteroid positions of 560,000 distinct asteroids and therefore
observed 89% of the known asteroid population [41]. Traditionally PS1 telescope pointings
or bore sites are called fields.
3.1 Gigapixel Camera
The heart of PS1 is a sophisticated camera designed to cover a large area of the sky while
providing high sensitivity and resolution. These quantities directly derive from mirror
quality, aperture diameter, number of pixels on the photo-electric chip and its thermal
noise, known as dark current. The camera is composed of 60 Orthogonal Transfer Arrays
(OTAs) arranged in a square of 8 by 8 missing one in each corner (see figure 3.2) [26]. The
corner pixels were omitted since they fall completely out of the illumination circle which is
defined by the circular primary mirror (see figure 3.3).
Figure 3.2: Pan-STARRS 1 camera composed of 60 OTAs.
Image taken from the Pan-STARRS website: http://pan-starrs.ifa.hawaii.edu.
The OTA technology was developed by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory to correct atmo-
spheric distortions in wide-field telescopes where conventional tip-tilt mirror adaptive optics
devices overrun their limits [3]. Each OTA is composed of an 8x8 array of Orthogonal Trans-
fer Charge-Coupled Devices (OTCCDs) that are capable of shifting the charge in a pixel to
either of the 4 neighbouring pixels at rates of up to about 30Hz. This technique is more
or less an electronic version of the tip-tilt mirror correction and allows the compensation
of atmospheric phase distortion and telescope motion. Together the 60 OTAs count 1.4
billion pixels and compile the largest camera ever built, capturing visible light and NIR (see
section 3.3).
3.2. FILL FACTOR F 13
3.2 Fill Factor F
Technological limitations force the design layout of the camera to have little gaps between
the single OTAs. Additionally, there are bad cells on the OTCCDs, affected by crosstalk
1
or saturation due to bright stars illuminating parts of the chip. All these effects reduce the
effectively illuminated area on the chip. The ratio between the effectively usable and total
illuminated area is called fill factor F. Figure 3.3 shows an image mask simulating the fill
factor, which is varying but in average roughly 75% [7]. It is measured and determined with
the aid of reference asteroids and accounted for with the system efficiency (section 4.4).
Figure 3.3: The figure shows the grid-like gaps between OTAs and a simulated typical distribution of bad
cells on the OTCCDs. Image taken from [7].
1
Crosstalk is any phenomenon by which a signal transmitted on one circuit or channel of a transmission
system creates an undesired effect in another circuit or channel. Crosstalk is usually caused by undesired
capacitive, inductive, or conductive coupling from one circuit, part of a circuit, or channel, to another.
[Wikipedia]
14 CHAPTER 3. PAN-STARRS 1 (PS1) TELESCOPE
3.3 Photometric System
The PS1 photometric system is similar to a sloan filter system [12]. It consists of 5 multi-
spectral bands g
PS1
, r
PS1
, i
PS1
, z
PS1
, y
PS1
plus a wide-band w
PS1
comprising the g
PS1
,
r
PS1
and i
PS1
spectrum as described by Tonry et al. [39]. Compared to the sloan system it
has the ultra-violet band replaced with an additional NIR band shifting the spectral range
to 400 −1000nm. The transmission for each of the filters is given in figure 3.4.
Figure 3.4: PS1 filter transmission curves as a function of field angle, in 0.15

steps from 0

to 1.65

(grey lines), with the area-weighted average in red. Image taken from [39].
Characteristic for the system are wide spectral bands optimised for the detection of faint
objects while still providing good contrast to the Night Sky Background (NSB). The total
spectral telescope throughput defined by aperture, photo sensor efficiency (see section 3.1)
and filter transmission is given in figure 3.5 as cross section for a standard air mass of 1.2.
3.4 PS1 Surveys
Among several others PS1 is conducting three surveys suitable for asteroid- and comet
detection. The so-called 3π-survey covers the largest portion of sky with an solid angle of
3π steradians (4π represents the entire sphere) in 5 sloan-like filters (see section 3.3), g
PS1
,
r
PS1
, i
PS1
, y
PS1
and z
PS1
. It takes up 56% of PS1 observation time and covers the entire
sky North of declination −30

[30]. The huge coverage allows not more than maximal 4
3.4. PS1 SURVEYS 15
Figure 3.5: Spectral PS1 cross section to produce a detected e

per incident photon for each of the six
bandpasses gPS1 (cyan), rPS1 (red), iPS1 (yellow), zPS1 (blue), yPS1 (black) and wPS1 (green). The curves
are taken from [39] and given for a standard airmass of 1.2, precipitable water vapour (PWV) of 0.65cm at
sea level and an aerosol exponent of 0.7.
exposures of the same field per night with a time interval between the exposures of typically
15 minutes, called Transit Time Interval (TTI). The 30-40 second exposures therefore have
a time difference of not more than one hour. Usually the filters g
PS1
, r
PS1
, i
PS1
are used
for fields close to the opposition
2
with the moon below horizon (figure 3.6) while y
PS1
and
z
PS1
are preferred for fields with high opposition elongation (figure 3.7).
The second biggest survey performed by Pan-STARRS is the Medium Deep survey [37].
Just like the 3π survey it uses the filters g
PS1
, r
PS1
, i
PS1
, y
PS1
and z
PS1
. It is awarded 25%
of the telescope time to capture long exposures (120 −240 seconds) of only 10 static fields
with a frequency of 8 per night. The long exposures provide lower limiting magnitudes and
are of great interest for cosmological studies (e.g. Tonry et al. [38]).
The last survey of interest for asteroid- and comet detection is the Solar System Survey
using the wide-band filter w
PS1
. Its telescope time share was raised in 2012 from 5 −6% to
12% due to great success in detecting solar system objects [7]. Solar System Survey fields
2
In observational Astronomy opposition refers to a direction in the sky exactly opposite to the direction
of the Sun.
16 CHAPTER 3. PAN-STARRS 1 (PS1) TELESCOPE
are mainly below 20

elevation from the ecliptic and in chunks around the opposition and
so-called morning- and evening sweet spots that are characterised with low solar elongations
between 60 and 90 degrees. For the number density limit estimation of ISOs in this thesis
(see chapter 6) all 181,388 fields produced from these 3 surveys until June 12th, 2013 are
used. In the following I will call them together the PS1 survey.
Figure 3.6: Sky coverage for filter gPS1 in the 3π survey, observing cycle 162.
The coverage for filters rPS1 and iPS1 are similar.
Figure 3.7: Sky coverage for filter zPS1 in the 3π survey, observing cycle 162.
The coverage for filter yPS1 is similar.
Chapter 4
Moving Object Processing System
(MOPS)
The Moving Object Processing System (MOPS) was developed for Pan-STARRS to extend
basic object recognition performed by the Image Processing Pipeline (IPP). It links multiple
observations of the same object together to estimate preliminary orbit parameters and
categorise the object. In the following a short overview of the system is given to introduce
essential principles of determining the system efficiency as described in section 4.4. A
detailed report of the MOPS system was written and published by Denneau et al. [7].
4.1 Image Processing Pipeline (IPP)
The IPP essentially performs the entire image analysis of Pan-STARRS raw data to the
point where it can be used by scientific analysis tools. The core requirements for the IPP
are robustness and the capability to cope with the enormous data amounts produced by
the gigapixel camera (section 3.1). The image processing of an observation cycle has to be
finished before the next observation cycle starts. In general every night observations are
conducted. The image analysis procedure was explained in detail by Magnier et al. [23].
It can be summarized in two major steps. In Phase 1) the raw images are combined with
metadata to perform astrometric and photometric calibrations. It ends with calibrated
images and a table of objects they contain. Exposures of the same portion of sky are
combined in Phase 2) to a so called stack. The result is a high quality image with cosmetic
defects removed and a better Signal-to-Noise ratio (S/N). To detect asteroids and comets
two images of the same region are subtracted. Static objects like stars and galaxies are
removed and only moving objects remain in the difference image with underlying noise. To
improve this technique a Static Sky map is currently under development. A Static Sky
image is the average of tens of stacked images over a long period of time. The more images
are added up the fainter is the limiting magnitude and the better is the S/N. Eventually the
moving object detection will be accomplished for all images with the subtraction of a stack
image and the Static Sky image. So far this technique is only available for the Medium
Deep survey (section 3.4). The MOPS processing chain described in the following chapter
4.2 starts with the output of the IPP system.
17
18 CHAPTER 4. MOVING OBJECT PROCESSING SYSTEM (MOPS)
4.2 Detections, Tracklets & Derived Objects
The interface of MOPS is realised in a MySQL database (see figure 4.1). It keeps track of
all fields observed in the PS1 survey, together with information about the used filters (see
section 3.3), exposure time, pointing of the telescope (field), etc. Furthermore, it contains
potential moving objects on 3 stages of processing. A moving object candidate suggested
by the IPP is called a detection and stored in the ’detections’ table of the database. Per
definition a detection always originates from differentiating exposures of the same field in a
single night of observation. The MOPS processing starts with linking 2, 3 or 4 detections of
the same object - obtained in a single night - together to a so-called tracklet. The number
ob detections per tracklet is dependent on availability of detections, ability of the system
to associate them with each other and the used filters. The tracklets are stored in the
’tracklets’ table together with metadata, for instance the used filters. If at least 3 tracklets
from 3 different nights seem to be associated with the same object a track is created and
forwarded to orbit determination. If a valid orbit can be computed the object is given
an ID and admitted to the ’derivedobjects’ table. MOPS uses the estimated trajectory to
search historic data for more tracklets that have been created but were not yet linked to the
object. These additional tracklets help to refine the trajectory of the derived object. If no
valid orbit can be computed the track is rejected and the corresponding tracklets released
for other possible inter-night links.
With the completion of all 4 telescopes Pan-STARRS is supposed to detect moving
objects and compute precise orbits automatically. As of now however, with only one working
telescope and a fill factor of significantly less than 1 (see section 3.2) the inter-night linking
is very inefficient and the processing chain therefore split after the creation of tracklets. All
tracklets that seem to be real are forwarded to the Minor Planet Center (MPC)
1
for further
investigation and follow-up.
4.3 Digest Score
The digest score is supposed to provide a pseudo-probability with which a tracklet belongs
to a certain sub-population of objects. It ranges from 0 to 100 and depends upon the an-
gular velocity ω, the apparent magnitude V and the position in the sky e.g. right ascension
and declination. The exact algorithm was developed by Jedicke et al. but is not published
yet and therefore classified. The principle is simple, the higher the score the more likely it
is that a tracklet belongs to a selected sub-population. For Pan-STARRS the digest score
is computed for the likelihood of a tracklet originating from a NEO. Digest scores are com-
puted for all tracklets. The algorithm recognises unrealistic trajectories and automatically
prevents the corresponding tracklets (unreal tracklets) from further processing. The digest
scores are sent together with the tracklets to the MPC as indicator for follow-up experiments
whether an tracklet is of interest or not.
1
The Minor Planet Center (http://www.minorplanetcenter.net) handles all activities concerning aster-
oids, comets and other objects in the solar system minor to planets. They validate object candidates and
announce new discovered objects, while keeping track of the entire known population.
4.4. SYSTEM EFFICIENCY 19
Figure 4.1: Overview of the MOPS database system as printed in [7].
4.4 System Efficiency
One of the key requirements for the estimation of an observational ISO number density
limit is that the efficiency with which PS1 detects moving objects is precisely known and
monitored over the survey lifetime. We define three terms traditionally used within MOPS
that refer to the probability of an object in a field creating an output at a certain stage of
processing (see section 4.2): detection-, tracklet- and ISO efficiency.
Detection Efficiency
Detection efficiency refers to the probability that an object in a field creates an entry in
the ’detections’ database of MOPS (see figure 4.1). Several factors influence this quantity
originating from the telescope hardware, the IPP software and the environment. The key
parameter for detecting objects in exposures is for all telescopes common and called S/N,
where the noise is a combination of photo detector dark current and NSB. The signal is
reduced by Rayleigh scattering on air molecules and Mie scattering due to water vapour,
occultation and pollution of the atmosphere. These effects combined are summarised as
20 CHAPTER 4. MOVING OBJECT PROCESSING SYSTEM (MOPS)
extinction. For PS1 specifically the fill factor described in section 3.2 and the quota of the
IPP to recognise an object if it is in an image additionally reduce the detection efficiency.
Analytical solutions to calculate the detection efficiency are complex. Therefore refer-
ence measurements with known objects are used to directly measure the detection efficiency
on a nightly basis for each filter and fit an efficiency curve. Since the detection efficiency
is depending on the apparent magnitude V the reference objects are sorted into bins with
a width of 0.25 magnitudes. For each night the detection efficiency is determined dividing
the number of known objects in a certain V -bin that were in a certain filter and admitted
to the detection database through the number of known objects that were in PS1 fields
that night in the same bin and filter. The detection efficiency depending on V follows the
empirical function

d
(V ) =

0
1 +e
V −L
w
(4.1)
with the fitting parameters
0
, L and w to be determined.
0
is the maximum efficiency
that can be reached for bright objects at a certain night. It stays constant with increasing V
until the limiting magnitude L is approached. A smooth symmetric drop-off to zero occurs
around L that is defined as the V value at which the efficiency is exactly 50% of
0
. The
parameter w is a measure for the width in V -domain over which the drop-off takes place.
In order to generate only trustworthy efficiency curves two requirements are imposed on
a nightly sample of reference measurements before the set goes into the fitting algorithm.
At least 10 known objects have to be present in a V -bin to form an efficiency measurement
and at least 10 of those efficiency measurements have to be available per night. Experi-
ments with different fitting functions
2
lead to the use of the Levenberg-Marquardt algorithm
implemented in Python’s curve fit function. It performs comparable to more complex al-
gorithms for this task while being much faster. It has shown that for all tested algorithms
- local and global optimisation - a weighting of the efficiency measurements is necessary in
order to retrieve satisfying results. The most common method, which was also applied here,
is a weighting with the inverse of the uncertainty.
The efficiency measurements are created dividing two histograms representing the num-
ber of objects that are known to be in an exposure N and a subset of N representing the
known objects that have been detected, denoted k. The measurements are separated into
different bins i depending on the apparent magnitude V of the object.

d
(V
i
) =
k(V
i
)
N(V
i
)
(4.2)
Two methods are common to estimate the uncertainty of such measurement series de-
pending on the underlying distribution: Poisson Errors and Binomial Errors. Both of these
methods deliver absurd results in limiting cases when the efficiency approaches 0 or 1 as de-
scribed by Paterno [29]. He developed a method based on Bayes’ Theorem that supposedly
avoids this problem. He developed a C++ software to calculate uncertainties according to
2
tested were ’Nelder-Mead’, ’L-BFGS-B’, ’Simulated Annealing’, ’Powell’, ’Conjugate Gradient’, ’Newton-
CG’, ’COBYLA’ and ’Sequential Linear Squares Programming’ from the python custom library ’lmfit’:
http://cars9.uchicago.edu/software/python/lmfit/
4.4. SYSTEM EFFICIENCY 21
his method, which is available upon request per email: paterno@fnal.gov. For this project
the implementation of his software was considered too time consuming and not in relation
to the cause. Therefore an empirical fix has been implemented together with the binomial
error estimation. The binomial error for the efficiency stated in equation 4.2 is given by
σ

d
(V
i
) =
¸

d
(V
i
) (1 −
d
(V
i
))
N(V
i
)
(4.3)
and delivers reasonable uncertainty values for efficiencies in the range from ∼ 0.02 to
∼ 0.98. The developed Python software computes uncertainties in this range according to
equation 4.3, otherwise uses
σ

d
(V
i
) =
¸
1
N(V
i
)
(4.4)
This method is empirical but delivers good fits for almost all nights as shown in an
example in figure 4.2. Additionally to an appropriate weighting reasonable initial values
have to be admitted to the optimisation algorithm for all fitting parameters. They were
selected empirical the to be

0,init
L
init
w
init
0.5 21 5
A software has been developed that downloads all reference measurements from the
MOPS database and computes fitting parameters for all nights PS1 operated. All fitting
parameters are collected in a table and stored in a file for this project and further use.
The fitting algorithm works fine in most cases, but not all. To avoid corrupt fits require-
ments have been imposed on the fitting algorithm. It has to deliver 3 real-valued, positive
parameters with the corresponding σ-values (standard deviation) not exceeding the upper
limits
σ

0
,max
σ
L,max
σ
w,max
0.1 3 1
All limits were set empirically. Corrupt fits were flagged and not admitted to the final
efficiency table. Figure 4.3 shows the distribution of the flags that were set for each night
of the PS1 survey in the ’w’-filter. The corresponding distribution of the parameters in the
final table is given in figure 4.4.
Tracklet Efficiency
The tracklet efficiency is defined as the number of objects in a certain number of fields that
created at least 1 tracklet in the MOPS tracklet database over the total number of objects
that were in those fields.

t
=
1
N

i
t
i
(4.5)
22 CHAPTER 4. MOVING OBJECT PROCESSING SYSTEM (MOPS)
Figure 4.2: Example of an efficiency fit curve for the ’w’-filter. The original efficiency measurements are
displayed in orange with corresponding error bars in grey. The boxes in the top right corner give the
computed fitting parameters together with their standard deviation estimated by Python’s curve fit
function. The limiting magnitude L is represented by a solid dark grey vertical line accompanied by two
light grey lines indicating the width of the drop-off or w respectively.
where the index t
i
is a boolean which is 1 if a tracklet was created for the object with id
i and 0 if no tracklet was created. N is the total number of objects that were in the fields.
The relation between detection efficiency and tracklet efficiency is not trivial. Tracklets
can be created out of 2, 3 or 4 detections all affected by the fill factor (see section 3.2)
and potentially originating from different filters. Analytical solutions to determine the
capability of MOPS to link detections into tracklets are complex and afflicted by large error
bars. Hence, the most accurate method to determine the tracklet efficiency is to measure
it directly with reference objects as well.
So far tracklet efficiency measurements are only implemented for the ’w’-band and only
for a fraction of the nights with detection efficiency measurements available. Therefore the
fitting parameters for the detection- and tracklet efficiencies in the ’w’-filter were averaged
to create functions for average detection- and average tracklet efficiency. Correction factors
were derived for each fitting parameter to convert it from detection efficiency to tracklet
efficiency.
4.4. SYSTEM EFFICIENCY 23
Figure 4.3: Distribution of flags set by the efficiency fit algorithm for the ’w’-filter. The red bars to the
left of ”GOOD FIT” represent flags that originate from errors encountered by Python in the fitting process
or from not fulfilled criteria required for a fitting approach. ”pcov infinity” is set when values in the
covariance matrix go against infinity. ”fitting error” is set when the fitting algorithm returns a not further
specified error, ”not enough bins” indicates that less than 10 bins were available and that therefore
according to specifications no fit was created. ”no data” is set when no measurements were available for a
given night at all. The yellow bars on the right of ”GOOD FIT” indicate if a fitting parameter was
negative or its standard deviation is exceeding the maximum values specified above.
c

0
=
¯
0,tf
¯
0,df
(4.6)
c
L
=
¯
L
tf
¯
L
df
(4.7)
c
w
=
¯ w
tf
¯ w
df
(4.8)
where the index tf denotes the relation to tracklets and df the relation to detections in a
certain filter f. There is no physical or mathematical proof that the same correction factors
apply to all filters but due to missing measurements it was regarded as the most reasonable
estimate to use the ’w’-filter correction for all filters. To convert a fitting parameter for a
24 CHAPTER 4. MOVING OBJECT PROCESSING SYSTEM (MOPS)
Figure 4.4: Distribution of efficiency fitting parameters and corresponding standard deviation for the
’w’-filter.
4.4. SYSTEM EFFICIENCY 25
given filter from average detection efficiency to average tracklet efficiency it is multiplied
by the corresponding correction factor from the ’w’-filter
¯
0, tf
= ¯
0, df
· c

0
(4.9)
¯
L
tf
=
¯
L
df
· c
L
(4.10)
¯ w
tf
= ¯ w
df
· c
w
(4.11)
where again the index tf denotes the relation to tracklets and df the relation to detec-
tions in filter f. The tracklet efficiency is therefore computed as
¯
t
=

0,d
c

0
1 +e
V −L
d
c
L
w
d
cw
(4.12)
The resulting efficiency curves for each filter are illustrated in figure 4.5.
ISO Efficiency
In the current configuration of Pan-STARRS only a fraction of the created tracklets make it
into tracks (see section 4.2). All other tracklets receive a digest rating (see section 4.3) and
are submitted to the MPC if they are considered real. The MPC publishes the submitted
object candidates on a public website
3
where other telescope projects as well as amateur
astronomers around the world can access them and freely choose tracklets of their interest
to follow-up. If one of these follow-up efforts is successful and the object can be recovered
a precise orbit is generated. In case the object is not already known the MPC announces
a new discovery. In general the follow-up approaches are guided by the digest score, but
there is no guarantee that an object with a high score is followed-up. On the other hand,
sometimes tracklets with a score of only 50 or even lower are pursued. For simplicity a
cut was set at a digest score of 90. We assume that all tracklets with a score of 90 or
higher are followed-up and produce a new object, knowing that some of them will not.
As compensation all objects that have a score lower than 90 and might actually still be
recovered are neglected.
Even though ISOs usually receive a high score there are some that are eliminated by
the digest score procedure. A detailed analysis on how many objects are rejected is still in
progress. The efficiency we are concerned about for the estimation of the number density
limit of ISOs is the efficiency that an object created a tracklet, received a high digest score,
was submitted to the MPC, was successfully followed-up and was announced as new object.
I will refer to this combined efficiency as ISO efficiency. Since objects can create more than
one tracklet and frequently do so the digest score modified tracklet efficiencies have to be
combined to give the actual ISO efficiency.
The probability of an event happening in at least one case out of n is
P
combined
= 1 −

n
[ 1 −P
n
] (4.13)
3
http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/NEO/ToConfirm.html
26 CHAPTER 4. MOVING OBJECT PROCESSING SYSTEM (MOPS)
Figure 4.5: Detection- and Tracklet Efficiency Functions depending on apparent magnitude V . The solid
lines represent the detection efficiency curves for all six PS1 filters and the tracklet efficiency curve for the
’w’-filter fitted through actual measurements while the dashed lines represent the estimated tracklet
efficieny curves for all other filters derived with the correction factors described above.
4.5. PAN-STARRS SURVEY SIMULATIONS 27
where P
n
is the probability that the event n has a positive outcome. Sequentially, the
efficiency that a certain object in a PS1-field is found is given by

ISO,i
= 1 −
Nt

n
i
=1
[ 1 −( ¯
tf
(V
i
) H(D
n
i
−90) ) ] (4.14)
where the index i refers to a unique object id and n
i
to a unique tracklet id of a tracklet
that has the object id i. ¯
tf
is the average tracklet efficiency in a certain filter f and N
t
the
total number of tracklets generated. D
n
represents the digest score for the tracklet n. H
denotes the Heaviside step function.
4.5 Pan-STARRS Survey Simulations
In order to test MOPS and assess the efficiency with which it finds representatives of certain
object populations a simulation mode is implemented. Objects can be inserted in real or
arbitrary fields before they are run through MOPS processing. Grav et al. [14] created a
Synthetic Solar System Model (S3M) with optimised orbits so that they are likely found in
the PS1 survey. It includes: Near Earth Objects (NEOs), Main Belt Objects (MBOs), Jo-
vian Trojans, Centaurs, Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), Jupiter-Family Comets (JFCs),
Long Periodic Comets (LPCs) and also Interstellar Objects (ISOs). For the purpose of this
thesis however the ISOs featured in the S3M are not suitable since they are not related to
a real population. A new ISO-model was therefore generated as input for the simulation
with requirements tailored to the task (see chapter 5). If MOPS is run in simulation mode
an additional table is created called ’S3M’ containing the positions and properties of the
synthetic objects. A comparison between the ’S3M’-table and for instance the ’tracklets’-
table shows how many of the objects appeared in PS1 fields and were linked into tracklets.
The system is smart enough here to assign corresponding S3M IDs to all detections and
tracklets so that for each object one can trace whether it was linked or not. The efficiency
of linking synthetic objects is always 100% presumed they appear in a PS1-field, which is
why the real efficiency has to be determined and assigned separately.
28 CHAPTER 4. MOVING OBJECT PROCESSING SYSTEM (MOPS)
Chapter 5
Interstellar Object Model
This section describes how a new ISO model was developed according to state-of-the-art
knowledge of distribution, velocity (see section 2.1) and properties (see 2.2) of ISOs. The
model has an object density several magnitudes higher than the real one expected for the
solar system. This is necessary to retrieve valid statistics from a simulation that covers
only ∼27 month. Normalised spatial distribution and SFD however stay the same. The
equations derived later will show that the use of a correct ISO distribution is essential for
the conceived method. The better the synthetic model resembles the real distribution of
ISOs the more accurate the derived estimate of the number density limit.
5.1 Object Generation and Propagation
To generate a realistic ISO model including gravitational focusing homogeneously random
distributed ISOs were initialised in a sphere with radius r
init
. Velocity vectors with random
Gaussian-distributed norms were assigned to all objects to define their orbits and add
dynamics to the model. The velocity distribution was adapted from Grav et al. [14] who
used numbers derived by Kresak [22] and Dehnen and Binney [6]. They estimate the
relative velocity of ISOs with respect to the Sun to be in the same order as the velocity of
surrounding stars. The used Gaussian distribution around µ = 25km/s with σ = 5km/s
places 99.7% of the generated objects between v
min
= 10km/s and v
max
= 40km/s.
A 2-body orbit propagation (object-Sun) introduces gravitational focusing to the model
over the propagation time interval T
p
. It has to be long enough that all objects which were
initialised in the Sun’s sphere of influence and therefore have a distribution that does not
take gravitational focusing into account get enough time to leave the sphere of influence
and do not distort the model. Additionally, objects outside the sphere need to have time
to replace them. Since no objects enter the initialisation sphere while there is a constant
outflow the model density decreases over time. From the beginning of orbit propagation a
sub-sphere emerges within the initialisation sphere harbouring a valid model while the outer
areas become adulterated. This sphere shrinks over time and will be denoted valid sphere
with radius r
valid
. Considering both of these effects as well as the computation time which
grows exponentially with r
init
a minimisation problem arises. To keep the computation time
within feasible limits r
init
has to be as small as possible while still providing a valid model
29
30 CHAPTER 5. INTERSTELLAR OBJECT MODEL
within r
valid
. The time of initialisation T
init
is dictated by the time frame T
v
in which the
model has to be valid. It was set to January 1st, 2005 (53371 MJD) until January 1st, 2015
(57387 MJD). This includes the Pan-STARRS survey and CSS, which will be included in
the number density limit estimation in the future.
r
valid
was set to 50AU, a distance where only objects with a diameter of several hundred
kilometres can be detected by PS1. Leaving them out assuming an exponential SFD (see
section 6.3) introduces a negligible error to the number density limit estimation. The
preparation time was estimated as
T
p
= η
2r
valid
v
min
(5.1)
where η is the margin factor. The calculated time span gives the slowest objects enough
time to cross the entire valid sphere without accounting for the acceleration due to the
gravitational pull of the Sun. A margin factor of 1.5 gives a T
p
of 71 years. r
init
was
estimated according to
r
init
= r
valid
+v
max
(T
v
+T
p
) (5.2)
so that the fastest objects would just reach the valid sphere if they were on a straight
path towards the heliocenter. With this choice of r
init
= 742AU it is guaranteed that
throughout the entire survey the inflow of ISOs into the valid sphere equals the outflow.
The margin factor introduced in equation 5.1 is automatically incorporated in r
init
.
After all objects were initialised at T
init
= 27399MJD (beginning of PS1-survey - T
p
)
they have to be propagated to the beginning of the PS1-survey before they can be admitted
to the MOPS simulation. To achieve a number of 1,000,000 objects in the simulation
appearing in the valid sphere during the survey lifetime 1,674,293,112 objects had to be
generated. Propagating this enormous amount of objects takes a long time. Therefore only
selected objects were propagated fulfilling the following selection criteria. Only objects with
perihelion distance smaller than r
valid
and a perihelion passing time greater than T
init
were
selected. Additionally, for each object fulfilling both of these criteria the time instants were
computed at which the object enters the valid sphere and leaves it. A good approximation
can be accomplished using the hyperbolic Kepler equation. For small perihelion distances
q 3.5AU however the algorithm runs into problems and delivers NaN values. As a simple
solution for the problem all objects delivering NaN values are admitted to the model so that
it will eventually include objects that do not enter the valid sphere at all during the survey
lifetime. Their numbers are negligible though. This fix is visible in the model statistics
illustrated in section 5.3. With 1,000,000 objects in the model a little bit more than a
quarter of them is situated in the valid sphere at any given time during the survey giving
an average number density of roughly 0.65AU
−3
(see figure 5.12).
In the model generation there is no step included verifying that the generated objects
are hyperbolic. An analysis of the eccentricity shows that the model includes objects with
e < 1. These objects are eliminated in the implementation setting a requirement of e > 1
when the tracklets are retrieved from the simulation output in the MySQL database.
5.2. ORBIT ANALYSIS 31
5.2 Orbit Analysis
To characterise and validate the orbits of ISOs generated with the procedure described in
section 5.1 sample objects have been generated and propagated over 50,000 days (roughly
137 years) from the time of initialization. Figure 5.1 and 5.2 show the trajectories with 100
day sampling. It is clearly visible that the trajectories are bent due to the gravitational
influence of the Sun. The effect is dependent on perihelion distance and therefore small for
most objects according to the perihelion distribution given in figure 5.5.
Figure 5.3 shows the orbital velocity of the sample objects depending on heliocentric
distance R. It is clearly visible how the velocity increases according to a power law while the
object approaches the Sun. The velocity gain is becoming significant at distances smaller
than roughly 50AU. Figure 5.4 shows the specific energy of the objects comprising the
potential energy and the kinetic energy normalised by the unit mass. The independence of
heliocentric distance verifies the conservation of energy and therefore the correctness of the
model in that sense. The orbital parameters are investigated in the next section in order
to characterise and further validate the ISO model.
5.3 ISO Model Statistics
In the following the distributions of orbital elements in the ISO model are analysed and
validated against requirements for the project. Figure 5.5 shows the normalised perihelion
distance distribution of all generated objects (black) and the selection eventually incorpo-
rated in the model (red). The latter features a cut-off at the radius of the valid sphere
r
valid
induced by the selection criterion described in section 5.1 after which only objects
are selected with q < r
valid
. It also shows a peak in the first bin which is related to the
special treatment of NaN values occurring for complex solutions of the hyperbolic Kepler
equation mentioned in section 5.1. Due to the fix applied the first bin includes all objects
that enter the valid sphere at any given time, not only objects that are present in the valid
sphere during at least a fraction of the specified time frame as it is the case for the rest of
the selected objects.
Figure 5.6 shows the normalised distribution of the Right Ascension of the Ascending
Node (RAAN) with the same colour coding as figure 5.5 and all following plots. As ex-
pected the direction from which the ISOs approach the Sun is absolutely random and the
distributions therefore flat for all generated objects as well as the selected batch.
Figure 5.7 shows the normalised eccentricity distribution for all generated objects as
well as for the selection while figure 5.8 gives only the selected distribution on a smaller
scale for better resolution. Due to the correlation of perihelion distance and eccentricity
the peak in the first bin as seen in figure 5.5 is also present here. The eccentricity of an
object is directly related to its perihelion distance and its velocity. The further away an
object passes the Sun the less its orbit gets curved by gravitational acceleration and the
higher its eccentricity. An object passing the Sun outside its sphere of influence will follow
a straight trajectory and per definition have an eccentricity of infinity. Also, the faster an
object moves the less time it is exposed to gravitational acceleration, the less its orbit is
curved and the higher its eccentricity. At each given perihelion distance the eccentricity
32 CHAPTER 5. INTERSTELLAR OBJECT MODEL
distribution is similar to the velocity distribution of the objects, in this case a Gaussian.
From figure 5.5 we can therefore conclude that the eccentricity distribution is an overlap
of Gaussians with a more or less linear increasing maximum up to the point where the
perihelion distance corresponding to the eccentricity reaches the radius of the initialisation
sphere/valid sphere. From this point the distribution drops off partly due to the Gaussian
drop-off from the last bins and partly due to the drop-off in the distribution of perihelion
distance.
Figure 5.9 shows the normalised distribution of the perihelion passing time τ. For the
total generated population τ is normal distributed around the time of initialisation while
for the selected objects the distribution is centred around the survey time. This behaviour
is just as intended and validates the selection process.
Figure 5.10 gives the normalised distribution of the objects’ inclination. Its cosine shape
can be explained the following way. Only objects that are located in the ecliptic plane and
additionally have an velocity vector parallel to the ecliptic have an inclination of 0 or 180

.
These configurations are rather rare. On the other hand, every object that has a velocity
vector perpendicular to the ecliptic has an inclination of 90

regardless of its position. The
plot verifies what was expected from a direction independent ISO distribution.
Figure 5.11 shows the number of objects selected for the model depending on heliocentric
distance R. Additional to gravitational focusing the relation of the volume of a spherical
shell to its radius is incorporated. The figure demonstrates that in the volume with good
detection probability even for small objects from approximately 2 − 5AU (0 − 1AU is the
volume between Earth and Sun and therefore not observed) more than 100 objects are
present over the survey lifetime.
Figure 5.12 gives the model density versus R and shows that the distribution of objects
in the model goes asymptotically against a homogenous distribution at large heliocentric
distances. Towards R = 0 the model density increases drastically due to gravitational
focusing. Within R = 1AU the model density is almost 5 times higher than at 50AU. From
R roughly greater 10AU however gravitational focusing does not have big impact on the
model density. It was therefore regarded as valid for the calculations in chapter 6 that the
model density at R = 50AU of 0.66AU
−3
is a good approximation for the model density in
interstellar space ρ
S,IS
.
Figure 5.13 is the result of an orbit propagation of all 1 million selected objects through
the valid time frame (10 years) computing ephemeris in 120 day intervals. The model density
fluctuates the stronger the smaller the heliocentric distance R. This effect can be explained
with the number of objects per bin, which is increasing with R. In the bins representing
0AU < R < 1AU zero to less than five objects are used to calculate the density while there
are several hundreds to several thousands in bins representing greater heliocentric distances.
In general however the dynamic of the model does not alter the model density at a given R
over time apart from fluctuations that should be compensated over the integration time.
5.3. ISO MODEL STATISTICS 33
Figure 5.1: Trajectories of 10 sample objects. The orange sphere represents the valid sphere with radius
r
valid
= 50AU. Objects outside of the sphere are the more opaque the closer they are to the heliocenter
while objects inside the sphere are coloured in red.
Figure 5.2: Trajectories of 10 sample objects [zoomed]. This plot is equivalent to figure 5.1.
34 CHAPTER 5. INTERSTELLAR OBJECT MODEL
Figure 5.3: Orbital velocity of sample objects depending on the heliocentric distance.
Figure 5.4: Specific energy of sample objects comprising potential and kinetic energy.
5.3. ISO MODEL STATISTICS 35
Figure 5.5: Normalised distribution of perihelion distance q for all generated objects (black) and selected
objects (red).
Figure 5.6: Normalised distribution of Right Ascension of the Ascending Node (RAAN) for all generated
objects (black) and selected objects (red).
36 CHAPTER 5. INTERSTELLAR OBJECT MODEL
Figure 5.7: Normalised distribution of eccentricity e for all generated objects (black) and selected objects
(red).
Figure 5.8: Normalised distribution of eccentricity e for the selected objects.
5.3. ISO MODEL STATISTICS 37
Figure 5.9: Normalised distribution of perihelion passing time tp for all generated objects (black) and
selected objects (red).
Figure 5.10: Normalised distribution of inclination i for all generated objects (black) and selected objects
(red).
38 CHAPTER 5. INTERSTELLAR OBJECT MODEL
Figure 5.11: Number of objects in the model NS versus heliocentric distance R on January 1st, 2005
(53371 MJD), beginning of the simulation.
Figure 5.12: ISO model density ρS versus heliocentric distance R on January 1st, 2005 (53371 MJD),
beginning of the simulation.
5.3. ISO MODEL STATISTICS 39
Figure 5.13: ISO model density ρS versus heliocentric distance R over the valid timeframe from January
1st, 2005 (53371 MJD) until January 1st, 2015 (57387 MJD). The binning in time domain is 120 days.
40 CHAPTER 5. INTERSTELLAR OBJECT MODEL
Chapter 6
Observational Number Density
Limit for ISOs
While several attempts have been pursued to tie down the upper limit for the number density
of interstellar objects (section 2.3), this is the first ever accomplished incorporating actual
observations with corresponding efficiency measurements (section 4.4). It is based on the
Poisson statistics of a non-detection (section 6.1) of ISOs in the PS1 survey. Assuming that
the number density of ISOs underlies statistical fluctuations but the average is constant over
a time interval much larger than the time of observation the steady-state number density
is given as
ρ =
¯
N
V
(6.1)
where
¯
N is the average number of ISOs located within V . To determine the steady-state
number density of ISOs within a certain volume of space it has to be either very large or
monitored over a long time to detect significantly more than zero ISOs, which is required
to provide valid statistics. Assuming that the ISOs are distributed homogeneously in the
galaxy with exception of the direct vicinity of stars, where gravitational focusing acts, an
arbitrary volume can be used as representative for the entire interstellar space. A volume
close to a star can also be used as shown in this chapter if an appropriate correction is applied
to compensate gravitational focusing. Compared to the time it takes ISOs to travel the vast
distances in the galaxy the time frame of a typical sky survey is extremely short. Also the
observed volume for a ground-based survey, which is limited by the telescope performance
and Earth’s atmosphere is relatively small and fixed at the heliocenter, dictated by Earth’s
orbit. PS1 observations conducted year-round in wide fields mainly close to opposition so
that a big portion of the night sky is covered (section 3.4). The observed volume therefore
can be seen from a simplified point of view as a large fraction of a heliocentric sphere with
a radius determined by the limiting magnitude of PS1, leaving out the innermost spherical
region between Earth and Sun where no observations are conducted. This volume is referred
to as accessible volume V
A
.
The number density of ISOs is so low that not a single one could unambiguously be
identified as such in the history of space surveillance. Since the PS1 survey is only a tiny
41
42 CHAPTER 6. OBSERVATIONAL NUMBER DENSITY LIMIT FOR ISOS
sample of a much larger volume the non-detection of ISOs does not out-rule their existence,
but it puts a constraint on the maximum density we can expect. The upper limit for the
number density of ISOs is directly proportional to the observed volume, which is influenced
by the efficiency of the entire Pan-STARRS system and the dynamics of ISOs. Since ISOs
move through space and ”shuffle” two measurements of the same volume can be regarded
as independent random samples of the entire interstellar space if the timespan between the
two measurements is long enough to assure that all objects within the volume leave it while
new objects move in to replace them. The necessary shuffling time is dependent exclusively
on the velocity distribution of ISOs.
Exploiting these two aspects observing the same volume in space more than once adds
additional volume to the total volume observed. Due to efficiencies less than 1 objects in
the observed volume might not be spotted at the first observation but at a subsequent one.
Additionally, over time, parts of the observed volume or even the entire volume become
independent from the previous observation and all other observations made because of the
shuffling effect that brings in objects from outside the accessible sphere. To distinguish
between the volume accessible by PS1 and the volume that was actually observed the latter
is referred to as Independent Effectively Observed Volume (IEOV) and represented by
¯
V .
It can be seen as a representative equivalent volume that was entirely observed with an
efficiency of 1. The observational form of the theoretical equation 6.1 therefore reads
ρ =
¯
N
¯
V
(6.2)
While
¯
N is unknown and has to be populated with a statistical estimator derived from
a random sample (section 6.1)
¯
V can be determined numerically with the aid of a MOPS
simulation (section 6.2).
6.1 Poisson Statistics of a Non-Detection
The non-detection of ISOs in the PS1 survey is only a tiny random sample of a much larger
volume and therefore has to be regarded as such. With the assumptions made about the
distribution and properties of ISOs in chapter 2 we can conclude that the number of ISOs
detected in the PS1 survey or any other similar survey follows a Poisson Distribution and
can therefore be represented by statistical estimator derived in this section.
The Poisson Distribution is a discrete approximation for the probability P
λ
(k) of a given
number of events k happening in a fixed interval of time or space if the average number of
events λ occurring in a large dataset of repeated measurements conducted under identical
conditions is small.
P
λ
(k) =
λ
k
k!
e
−λ
(6.3)
The expected number of ISOs λ to be found if the volume
¯
V determined in section 6.2
is observed we rearrange equation 6.3. It is irrelevant here if the PS1 survey is seen as a
random sample from a time series of a fixed volume or a random sample volume taken from
a much larger volume where the measurement series is fixed at a certain time interval. This
6.1. POISSON STATISTICS OF A NON-DETECTION 43
equality arises from the assumption that the distribution of ISOs in interstellar space across
the galaxy is homogenous and time invariant over a time scale much larger than the time
of observation. Solving the equation for λ with given probability P
λ
(k) for a certain k gives
in this case simply
λ = −ln(P
λ
(0)) (6.4)
With only one measurement available, namely zero discoveries in the PS1 survey, the
probability of finding zero ISOs cannot be estimated very well. However, it can be implied
that in case of a representative measurement with a probability referred to as confidence
l the expectation value λ does not exceed a certain value λ
C.L.
without predicting an out-
come probability for a non-detection smaller than 1 −l. In other words, with the concrete
confidence of l = 90%: ”If the expectation value of the number of ISOs in the observed
volume
¯
V would exceed
λ
C.L.
= −ln(1 −l) = −ln(1 −0.9) = 2.30 (6.5)
the probability of detecting zero ISOs in a PS1-like survey would be less than 1 − l =
10%.” This Poisson Probability Distribution for a confidence of 90% is illustrated in figure
6.1.
Figure 6.1: Poisson distribution for λ = 2.3 and a confidence l of 90% respectively.
Increasing the confidence limit (shifting λ
C.L.
to the right in figure 6.1) always results in
a decrease of P
λ
(0). The probability of detecting zero ISOs becomes the smaller the higher
44 CHAPTER 6. OBSERVATIONAL NUMBER DENSITY LIMIT FOR ISOS
the Confidence Limit (C.L.) is. Substituting
¯
N with the derived Poisson probability of a
non-detection equation 6.2 reads
ρ
C.L.
=
−ln(1 −l)
¯
V
(6.6)
6.2 Determination of
¯
V with a MOPS simulation
To determine
¯
V a simulation of the PS1 survey was conducted with MOPS (section 4.5)
using the developed ISO model described in chapter 5 and all fields that were actually
observed by the PS1 survey. It is defined as
¯
V (α, H

) =
H

_
−∞
_
Tsurvey
_
V
A
(r,

ξ, α, H

, t) dV dt dH (6.7)
where H

is the absolute magnitude of ISOs at which the SFD is cut off, r is the position
vector in a heliocentric frame,

ξ is the set of orbit element distributions of ISOs, T
survey
is the timespan of the PS1 survey, V
A
is the volume of the valid sphere, α is the slope
parameter of the SFD and is the average ISO detection efficiency for objects positioned at
r given the other variables. While T
survey
, V
A
and

ξ are fixed, α and H

are kept variable,
which is why they are explicitly called out. To determine the number density limit as a
function of α and H

for practical reasons the simulation was conducted only once with a
flat SFD, all objects having an absolute magnitude of 0. Selected SFDs were then assigned
to the output of the simulation as described in section 6.3.
It is apparent that the IEOV of a simulation
¯
V
S
is approximately identical to
¯
V if all
parameters given in equation 6.7 are approximately identical to the real survey. Consequen-
tially, it is a requirement on the simulation that real fields and real efficiencies are admitted.
Additionally, it is a requirement on the used ISO model that the normalised distribution of
ISOs is identical to the one expected for the solar system in spatial and SFD-domain since
each specific depends upon the entire orbit element distribution. This is due to the fact
that gravitational focusing distorts the otherwise homogenous distribution of ISOs around
the Sun. An effect not negligible since the majority of ISOs is detected at small heliocentric
distances where the number density can be almost 5 times as high as in interstellar space
as illustrated in figure 5.12. With the requirements fulfilled
¯
V
S
(α, H

) ∼
¯
V (α, H

) (6.8)
where the index S denotes for all variables the origin from the PS1 survey simulation
conducted by MOPS.
¯
V
S
can be determined from the simulation rearranging equation 6.2:
¯
V
S
(α, H

) =
¯
N
S
(α, H

)
ρ
S
(α, H

)
(6.9)
where ρ
S
is the average density of
¯
V
S
. Due to the fact that the number density of
ISOs in the model is much higher than the real number density it can be assumed for an
6.2. DETERMINATION OF
¯
V WITH A MOPS SIMULATION 45
accessible sphere of 50AU that
¯
N
S
(α, H

) = N
S
(α, H

) (6.10)
at any given time, where N
S
is the count of discovered objects in the simulation. With
a known number density distribution of ISOs in the simulation the limit for the real number
density distribution can be determined combining equations 6.6, 6.9 and 6.10.
ρ
C.L.
(α, H

) =
−ln(1 −l)
N
S
(α, H

)
ρ
S
(α, H

) (6.11)
ρ
C.L.
(α, H

) and ρ
S
(α, H

) are average number densities integrated over
¯
V and
¯
V
S
, fol-
lowing
ρ(α, H

) =
_

V
ρ(r, α, H

) dV (6.12)
for fixed parameters incorporated in
¯
V . With the assumption that in a heliocentric
frame the number density distribution of ISOs for a given α and H

depends only on R (due
to gravitational focusing) the equation can be re-written as
ρ(α, H

) = ρ
IS
(α, H

)
_

V
f(R) dV (6.13)
where ρ
IS
(α, H

) is the number density of ISOs in interstellar space and
f(R) =
ρ(R, α, H

)
ρ
IS
(α, H

)
(6.14)
Substituting ρ
C.L.
(α, H

) and ρ
S
(α, H

) in equation 6.11 with equation 6.13 gives
ρ
IS
C.L.
(α, H

)
_

V
f(R) dV =
−ln(1 −l)
N
S
(α, H

)
ρ
S,IS
(α, H

)
_

V
f
S
(R) dV (6.15)
Given the assumption that the orbit distribution

ξ is identical for real ISOs and the
ones in the simulation
f(R) ∼ f
S
(R) (6.16)
the integrals cancel out and the number density limit of ISOs in interstellar space is
given as
ρ
IS
C.L.
(α, H

) =
−ln(1 −l)
N
S
(α, H

)
ρ
S,IS
(α, H

) (6.17)
Since the ISO efficiency is not implemented in MOPS the simulation contains all objects
that were in PS1 fields during the simulation. To get the number count of objects in the
simulation that would have been discovered eventually the probability for each object to be
46 CHAPTER 6. OBSERVATIONAL NUMBER DENSITY LIMIT FOR ISOS
found has to be determined with the ISO efficiency given in equation 4.14 and summed up
like
N
S
(α, H

) =

i
_
1 −
Nt

n
i
=1
[ 1 −( ¯
t,nf
(V
i
) H(D
n
i
−90) ) ]
_
(6.18)
6.3 Assignment of a Size Frequency Distribution (SFD)
The number of objects discovered in the simulation is dependent on the SFD, which is not
known. We use common practice and assign SFDs following an exponential function as given
in equation 2.1 (section 2.1) for all combinations of α and H

in the ranges α = 0.1...0.8
with steps of 0.05 and H

= 0...20 with steps of full magnitudes.
Assigning a new absolute magnitude to an object also requires a correction of the ap-
parent magnitude. Using the apparent magnitude according to Bowell et al. [2] it can be
calculated with
V = H + 5 log
10
(R∆) −2.5 log
10
((1 −G)Φ
1
+GΦ
2
) (6.19)
where R is the heliocentric distance of the object, ∆ its topocentric distance and G the
phase curve of the body’s albedo (not the albedo itself!). G ≈ 0 for low-albedo objects and
G ≈ 1 for high-albedo objects. As described in section 2.2 we use an albedo of p = 0.04
and therefore G is small.
Φ
1
= e
−A
1
tan(
φ
2
)
B
1
(6.20)
Φ
2
= e
−A
2
tan(
φ
2
)
B
2
(6.21)
with A
1
= 3.33, B
1
= 0.63, A
2
= 1.87 and B
2
= 1.22 and the phase angle (angle between
Earth and Sun as seen from the object)
φ(∆) = arccos
_
r
2
−∆
2
−R
2
2∆R
_
(6.22)
where r is the distance between the Earth and Sun. For a fixed position equation 6.19
can be rewritten as
V = H +const. (6.23)
Since V is computed by MOPS for all objects with H = 0, denoted V
0
we can compute
the new apparent magnitude with the simple relation
V (H) = V
0
+H
new
(6.24)
6.4. PRE-COMPUTATION OF DIGEST SCORES 47
where H
new
is the assigned absolute magnitude. To assign a SFD of the form given in
equation 2.1 randomly to the output of the MOPS simulation the equation was inverted
and fed with a random variable
H
random
= log
10
_
X
u
α
_
+H
0
(6.25)
where X
u
is a uniformly distributed random variable ranging from 0 to 1. Choosing
H
0
to be H

the SFD will automatically be normalised to the number of objects in the
simulation resulting in a cutoff exactly at H

as illustrated in figure 6.2. This particular
method has the effect, that for small values of H

more objects are distributed over a smaller
range and that therefore the statistics are better in comparison to distributions up to a large
H

.
Figure 6.2: Normalised cumulative distribution of 10,000 randomly generated H-values according to
equation 6.25 for the following α-H

combinations.
—–
blue: α = 0.5, H

= 11 green: α = 0.7, H

= 11 red: α = 0.5, H

= 19 orange: α = 0.7, H

= 19.
6.4 Pre-computation of Digest Scores
The digest score is computed automatically by MOPS for each object in the simulation. It
is dependent i.a. on the apparent magnitude (section 4.3) and therefore not valid anymore
48 CHAPTER 6. OBSERVATIONAL NUMBER DENSITY LIMIT FOR ISOS
once a new V is assigned to the object. New scores had to be computed 10 times for the
entire ISO population (to improve statistics, see section 6.5). The digest score underlies a
complex algorithm which is implemented in a C code and not trivial to reproduce. It was
regarded as the most feasible solution to pre-compute digest scores for all object positions
for full apparent magnitudes in the range H = 0...20 and store them in a look-up table.
In the implementation of equation 6.18 the closest pre-computed digest score was used for
D
N
i
as approximation for the actual value. The resulting error here is negligible.
6.5 90% Confidence Limit (C.L.)
To eventually compute the 90% C.L. for the number density of ISOs a Python script was
written to loop over all α-H

combinations and for each of them over all tracklets generated
by the MOPS simulation (section 6.2), assigning them random H values according to the
method described in section 6.3. From the assigned H value the corrected apparent magni-
tude V is computed with equation 6.24, which in combination with the tracklet metadata
about the used filter directly yields the corresponding tracklet efficiency (see section 4.4).
Furthermore V is used to retrieve the closest match from the pre-computed digest table
(section 6.4), which is fed together with the efficiency into equation 6.18. Combined effi-
ciencies are computed according to equation 4.13 for tracklets originating from the same
object (identical S3M ID, see figure 4.1) and subsequently summed up to obtain the to-
tal number of objects that would have been discovered by PS1 in the simulation for the
particular α-H

combination.
To improve statistics the loop over all tracklets is repeated 10 times, assigning different
H values to the tracklets, retaining the same SFD. The resulting numbers for discovered
objects are averaged and used as input for N
S
(α, H

) in equation 6.17. For ρ
S,IS
the model
density of 0.66AU
−3
at 50AU was used as approximation for the model density in interstellar
space (see section 5.3). The result of the additional loops over all α-H

combinations is a
2-dimensional array giving the 90% C.L. for the number density of ISOs depending on SFD
slope parameter α and SFD cutoff magnitude H

, as illustrated in a colour-coded surface plot
in figure 6.3. The repetition cycle of 10 was determined empirically so that the computed
number density limits have smooth transitions between different α-H

combinations. If the
repetition cycle were too low the statistics would generate noise in figure 6.3. The same
procedure was repeated correcting the H-values for the assumption of cometary activity as
described in section 2.2. The result is a tighter limit as shown in figure 6.4. Both output
arrays were plotted on the same colour scale for optimal comparison.
To give an idea of the statistical quantifier the cumulative number of objects was plotted
which has been detected in the simulation for each of the α −H

combinations, separately
for inert and active objects (figures 6.5 and 6.6). As highlighted previously the statistics are
the better the lower α and H

. For the C.L. computation in this case the lowest detected
number of objects was no less than 10. With the C.L. computed the IEOV is directly given
with equation 6.6. It is illustrated in figures 6.7 and 6.8.
6.5. 90% CONFIDENCE LIMIT (C.L.) 49
Figure 6.3: 90% confidence limit of the number density of ISOs versus slope parameter α and limiting
absolute magnitude H

of the SFD, without implementation of cometary activity.
Figure 6.4: 90% confidence limit of the number density of ISOs versus slope parameter α and limiting
absolute magnitude H

of the SFD, including the implementation of cometary activity.
50 CHAPTER 6. OBSERVATIONAL NUMBER DENSITY LIMIT FOR ISOS
Figure 6.5: Cumulative number of detected ISOs in the PS1 survey simulation versus slope parameter α
and limiting absolute magnitude H

of the SFD, without implementation of cometary activity.
Figure 6.6: Cumulative number of detected ISOs in the PS1 survey simulation versus slope parameter α
and limiting absolute magnitude H

of the SFD, including the implementation of cometary activity.
6.5. 90% CONFIDENCE LIMIT (C.L.) 51
Figure 6.7: IEOV of the PS1 survey versus slope parameter α and limiting absolute magnitude H

of the
SFD, without implementation of cometary activity.
Figure 6.8: IEOV of the PS1 survey versus slope parameter α and limiting absolute magnitude H

of the
SFD, including the implementation of cometary activity.
52 CHAPTER 6. OBSERVATIONAL NUMBER DENSITY LIMIT FOR ISOS
Chapter 7
Results & Discussion
The prime result of this thesis is given in figure 7.1. It shows a new version of figure 2.5
including the new observational upper limit for the number density of ISOs set with PS1.
With the methods described in this thesis the limit was set to 5.4 × 10
−02
AU
−3
for
an inert population of ISOs and to 1.6 × 10
−03
AU
−3
for an active one, following an SFD
according to equation 2.1 with α = 0.5 and H

= 19 (corresponds to ∼ 1km diameter).
Since we do not know whether or not ISOs show activity the conservative result featuring
inert objects has to be regarded as the absolute 90% C.L. for the upper limit of the number
density of ISOs. But even with the assumption of activity the numbers calculated do
not quite match expectations of a much lower limit undercutting all previous estimations.
These expectations were especially based on the even tighter limit (95% confidence) set by
Francis [11] in 2005, which he established from a similar survey but with a far less powerful
telescope. In case the assumptions made are correct, we can directly conclude that he either
overestimated the efficiency with which LINEAR discovers ISOs or that he overestimated
the number of ISOs that would cross LINEAR fields given a homogenous distribution in
interstellar space.
Even though non of the predicted ISO number density estimates given in section 2.3
could be undermined the optimistic C.L. set (including activity) comes very close to the pre-
dictions made by Jewitt [19] and McGlynn and Chapman [24]. Repeating all computations
at the end of the PS1 survey with additional data would certainly outrun both of them.
It is however clear if we believe Moro-Mart´ın et al. [25] and their most elaborate estimate
made so far that without a giant leap in telescope performance it might take decades to
detect an ISO.
As a by-product of the C.L. computation the volume has been determined which was
effectively observed by PS1 for object populations like the one assumed for ISOs. Notable
here is the huge gain with the assumption of activity. For example, using the parameters
α = 0.5 and H

= 19 the IEOV is ∼32 times higher for active objects counting 1, 411AU
3
,
compared to 42.9AU
3
for inert objects.
Another valuable by-product is the generated ISO model and the corresponding statis-
tical analysis. It allows predictions about certain properties of ISO trajectories that lead
through the inner solar system. For instance, if we had the capabilities to observe the whole
50AU sphere used for the simulation we could right away state that it would be most likely
53
54 CHAPTER 7. RESULTS & DISCUSSION
to find an ISO with eccentricity around 30 and high orbital inclination. The model is a
powerful tool to investigate the behaviour of interstellar objects and tune surveys dedicated
to their discovery. It is open source and will hopefully find further use for other projects.
Figure 7.1: ISO number density limit set with PS1 in comparison to other estimates (described in figure
2.5). It gives the 90% C.L. with α = 0.5 and H

= 19 (just like the other estimates) for the assumption of
inert objects (red line) as well as for the assumption of Oort cloud comet-like activity (orange line).
Chapter 8
Outlook
Efforts are already ongoing to incorporate 8 years of CSS observations into the ISO number
density limit estimation. These additional measurements with comparable efficiencies and
limiting magnitudes should bring down the values computed in chapter 6 by a factor of 2
to 4. Furthermore, the new computations will show which factors are important to most
feasibly improve the limit. If, for example the time of observation has a bigger impact than
the limiting magnitude of the telescope or vice versa. The comparison of the two numbers
might even allow to predict how the limit will evolve over time if both of the experiments
stay unsuccessful in discovering ISOs.
The achievements accomplished in this thesis as well as the findings from the endeavours
just stated are going to be published in an article for an astronomical journal in the near
future, written by myself together with co-authors from the IfA. We hope that the method
conceived over the course of this work will become a standard for other experiments to
estimate number density limits based on non-detection.
The paper will also include an investigation of the digest score behaviour of ISOs. De-
termining which objects were eliminated by the scoring system will help to improve the
algorithm, making it more suitable for the detection of ISOs.
55
56 CHAPTER 8. OUTLOOK
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List of Figures
2.1 Principal sketch of different orbit types, depending on eccentricity e. An
orbit with e = 0 is called circular (not illustrated here). 0 < e < 1 results
in an elliptical orbit, e = 1 in a parabolic trajectory and every eccentricity
greater than 1 in a hyperbolic one. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
2.2 Comet 96P/Machholz as seen by STEREO-A in April 2007. Image taken
from Wikimedia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
2.3 Illustration of different slope parameters. The curves are labeled with α
values from 0.3 to 0.7. ρ
0
was selected to be 1 for this plot at H
0
= 19.1,
which corresponds to a diameter of 1km for an albedo of 0.04. . . . . . . . . 6
2.4 Brightness versus Size for astroids according to [10], with an albedo p = 0.04.
The plot was generated with equation 2.2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2.5 glsISO number density estimates over time. The blue shaded areas show
a 95% Poisson Confidence Limit on the maximum number density of ISOs
determined by Francis [11] with a 3 year sample of the LINEAR survey (1999-
2002). The darker blue patch corresponds to the limit computed with the
actual data sample. It is slightly variable depending on the used comet pop-
ulation. The bottom edge represents the limit for a Hughes [18] population
of 6 × 10
−4
AU
−3
and the top edge the limit for a Everhart [9] population
of 9 ×10
−4
AU
−3
. He suggests that since there hasn’t been a discovery with
LINEAR until the end of 2004 with a comparable sky coverage the limit
could be adjusted to lower values between 3 −4.5 ×10
−4
AU
−3
, represented
in the figure with the lighter blue patch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
3.1 Pan-STARRS 1 telescope atop Mauna Haleakal¯a during twilight. Image
taken from the PS1 Science Consortium website: http://ps1sc.org. . . . . . 11
3.2 Pan-STARRS 1 camera composed of 60 OTAs. Image taken from the Pan-
STARRS website: http://pan-starrs.ifa.hawaii.edu. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
3.3 The figure shows the grid-like gaps between OTAs and a simulated typical
distribution of bad cells on the OTCCDs. Image taken from [7]. . . . . . . . 13
3.4 PS1 filter transmission curves as a function of field angle, in 0.15

steps from
0

to 1.65

(grey lines), with the area-weighted average in red. Image taken
from [39]. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
61
62 LIST OF FIGURES
3.5 Spectral PS1 cross section to produce a detected e

per incident photon for
each of the six bandpasses g
PS1
(cyan), r
PS1
(red), i
PS1
(yellow), z
PS1
(blue),
y
PS1
(black) and w
PS1
(green). The curves are taken from [39] and given for
a standard airmass of 1.2, precipitable water vapour (PWV) of 0.65cm at sea
level and an aerosol exponent of 0.7. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
3.6 Sky coverage for filter g
PS1
in the 3π survey, observing cycle 162. The cov-
erage for filters r
PS1
and i
PS1
are similar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
3.7 Sky coverage for filter z
PS1
in the 3π survey, observing cycle 162. The cov-
erage for filter y
PS1
is similar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
4.1 Overview of the MOPS database system as printed in [7]. . . . . . . . . . . 19
4.2 Example of an efficiency fit curve for the ’w’-filter. The original efficiency
measurements are displayed in orange with corresponding error bars in grey.
The boxes in the top right corner give the computed fitting parameters to-
gether with their standard deviation estimated by Python’s curve fit function.
The limiting magnitude L is represented by a solid dark grey vertical line ac-
companied by two light grey lines indicating the width of the drop-off or w
respectively. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
4.3 Distribution of flags set by the efficiency fit algorithm for the ’w’-filter. The
red bars to the left of ”GOOD FIT” represent flags that originate from er-
rors encountered by Python in the fitting process or from not fulfilled criteria
required for a fitting approach. ”pcov infinity” is set when values in the co-
variance matrix go against infinity. ”fitting error” is set when the fitting
algorithm returns a not further specified error, ”not enough bins” indicates
that less than 10 bins were available and that therefore according to spec-
ifications no fit was created. ”no data” is set when no measurements were
available for a given night at all. The yellow bars on the right of ”GOOD
FIT” indicate if a fitting parameter was negative or its standard deviation is
exceeding the maximum values specified above. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
4.4 Distribution of efficiency fitting parameters and corresponding standard de-
viation for the ’w’-filter. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
4.5 Detection- and Tracklet Efficiency Functions depending on apparent magni-
tude V . The solid lines represent the detection efficiency curves for all six
PS1 filters and the tracklet efficiency curve for the ’w’-filter fitted through
actual measurements while the dashed lines represent the estimated track-
let efficieny curves for all other filters derived with the correction factors
described above. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
5.1 Trajectories of 10 sample objects. The orange sphere represents the valid
sphere with radius r
valid
= 50AU. Objects outside of the sphere are the
more opaque the closer they are to the heliocenter while objects inside the
sphere are coloured in red. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
5.2 Trajectories of 10 sample objects [zoomed]. This plot is equivalent to figure
5.1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
5.3 Orbital velocity of sample objects depending on the heliocentric distance. . 34
LIST OF FIGURES 63
5.4 Specific energy of sample objects comprising potential and kinetic energy. . 34
5.5 Normalised distribution of perihelion distance q for all generated objects
(black) and selected objects (red). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
5.6 Normalised distribution of Right Ascension of the Ascending Node (RAAN)
for all generated objects (black) and selected objects (red). . . . . . . . . . 35
5.7 Normalised distribution of eccentricity e for all generated objects (black) and
selected objects (red). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
5.8 Normalised distribution of eccentricity e for the selected objects. . . . . . . 36
5.9 Normalised distribution of perihelion passing time t
p
for all generated objects
(black) and selected objects (red). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
5.10 Normalised distribution of inclination i for all generated objects (black) and
selected objects (red). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
5.11 Number of objects in the model N
S
versus heliocentric distance R on January
1st, 2005 (53371 MJD), beginning of the simulation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
5.12 ISO model density ρ
S
versus heliocentric distance R on January 1st, 2005
(53371 MJD), beginning of the simulation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
5.13 ISO model density ρ
S
versus heliocentric distance R over the valid timeframe
from January 1st, 2005 (53371 MJD) until January 1st, 2015 (57387 MJD).
The binning in time domain is 120 days. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
6.1 Poisson distribution for λ = 2.3 and a confidence l of 90% respectively. . . . 43
6.2 Normalised cumulative distribution of 10,000 randomly generated H-values
according to equation 6.25 for the following α-H

combinations. —– blue:
α = 0.5, H

= 11 green: α = 0.7, H

= 11 red: α = 0.5, H

= 19 orange:
α = 0.7, H

= 19. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
6.3 90% confidence limit of the number density of ISOs versus slope parameter
α and limiting absolute magnitude H

of the SFD, without implementation
of cometary activity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
6.4 90% confidence limit of the number density of ISOs versus slope parameter
α and limiting absolute magnitude H

of the SFD, including the implemen-
tation of cometary activity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
6.5 Cumulative number of detected ISOs in the PS1 survey simulation versus
slope parameter α and limiting absolute magnitude H

of the SFD, without
implementation of cometary activity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
6.6 Cumulative number of detected ISOs in the PS1 survey simulation versus
slope parameter α and limiting absolute magnitude H

of the SFD, including
the implementation of cometary activity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
6.7 IEOV of the PS1 survey versus slope parameter α and limiting absolute
magnitude H

of the SFD, without implementation of cometary activity. . . 51
6.8 IEOV of the PS1 survey versus slope parameter α and limiting absolute
magnitude H

of the SFD, including the implementation of cometary activity. 51
64 LIST OF FIGURES
7.1 ISO number density limit set with PS1 in comparison to other estimates
(described in figure 2.5). It gives the 90% C.L. with α = 0.5 and H

= 19
(just like the other estimates) for the assumption of inert objects (red line)
as well as for the assumption of Oort cloud comet-like activity (orange line). 54
Declaration of Authorship
I certify that the work presented here is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, original and
the result of my own investigations, except as acknowledged, and has not been submitted,
either in part or whole, for a degree at this or any other university.
Munich, 31st of January 2014
Toni Engelhardt
Matrikelnumber 03626988
65
66 DECLARATION OF AUTHORSHIP
Acknowledgment
First of all I want to thank Dr. Robert Jedicke from the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) at
the University of Hawai’i who conceived this project, invited me to the islands, introduced
me to the field of asteroids and comets and took the main supervision of this thesis. He
spent a lot of time to explain and discuss things, for weekly meetings and made sure I kept
being on track and not surf too much at Diamond Head and Kaka’ako Beach Park with
Conrad Holmberg. If it wasn’t for him I would have never been on this incredible journey
to the other side of the world. Thank you Rob!
I also want to thank Dr. Peter Veres from the IfA for helping me out with approximately
10
6
problems and patiently answering at least as many questions regarding Pan-STARRS,
MOPS, Astronomy in general and life in Hawai’i. I enjoyed his companionship very much
and I won’t forget that this thesis could have never been written without him. Thanks Peter!
I have to be grateful to Larry Denneau and Serge Chastel also IfA staff who I bothered a
lot to fill all the gaps in my IT knowledge and who helped me out whenever I asked for it,
even though they are both more than just busy. Thanks guys!
Special thanks to Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons who helped me out with the implementation
of cometary activity, making this work worthy to publish.
Thank you also Dr. Eva Schunova, Morgan Bonnet and Conrad Holmberg for good talks
and epic surf sessions, as well as all other colleagues, secretaries, grad students and postdocs
at the IfA who made my stay very pleasant and unforgettable. Not to forget Director Dr.
G¨ unther Hasinger who is running the institute and who eventually officially approved my
visit a the IfA.
Finally, I want to thank Prof. Urs Hugentobler, who supervised my thesis as represen-
tative from the Technical University of Munich (TUM). Even though not an expert in the
field of comets he provided quick and competent feedback whenever needed and took a lot
of time to discuss my work. I enjoyed these discussions very much as well as his attitude
as a person, teacher and towards science - his enthusiasm for my research almost exceeded
mine. Thank you!
67