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Uploaded by Toni Engelhardt

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 42.9AU3 while the inclusion of Oort cloud comet-like activity yields an observed volume of 1,411AU3, 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 × 10−02AU−3 for inert objects and 1.6 × 10−03AU−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.

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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

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