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From Jonathan Tate (


The Sponsors of the workshop were the IAU, ASI, NASA, ESA, Spaceguard Foundation, IACG, The Planetary Society, Alenia Aerospazio - Divisione Spazio and the Provincia di Torino.

This meeting was a follow up to the IAU WGNEO sponsored workshop on the island of Vulcano (Italy) in September 1995, entitled "Beginning the Spaceguard Survey". The aim of that workshop was to emphasise the need for a co-ordinated effort, and to establish the basis for effective international co-operation on the subject.

Participation at the Turin workshop included a high proportion of the world expertise in NEO studies, and high ranking members of NASA, the IAU and other sponsoring organisations.

The objectives of the workshop were:

  • To encourage scientists in all nations and their sponsoring agencies to increase NEO search and follow-up efforts.

  • To improve communications among observers worldwide and to use these improved communications to foster co-ordination of search and follow-up activities.

  • To assess the actual potential and limitations of ground-based observing facilities, and to discuss the possible role of space-based segments in NEO search.

  • To develop procedures for assuring a rapid communication of accurate information about Extremely Hazardous Objects which may be detected in the future.

  • To draft and discuss Recommendations to be distributed to the scientific and political bodies able to support and fund NEO researches.

The structure of meeting was to hold an initial plenary session during which the conference was briefed on a number of topics, to bring everyone fully up to date with recent developments. After the briefings the conference split up into four sub-groups to discuss specific issues, and to produce recommendations to be passed to the IAU. These recommendations, once agreed by the sub-groups were then discussed at another plenary session where they were agreed by the floor, or not.

While it is not yet possible to detail the recommendations that will be passed to the IAU, as they have yet to be "word-smithed" by the sub-group chairmen and agreed in their final forms, it is possible to list a few of the significant statements made, discussions had and recommendations made. So, below are some bullet points, to be followed by a full report as soon as the results are published.

  • Actual impacts are likely to be preceded by prior close approaches.

  • Comets pose a much smaller risk than asteroids.

  • Issues of funding and national interest need to be addressed.

  • The issue of whether asteroids are rubble piles or solid bodies is still unresolved. This information is very necessary for any mitigation strategies. We need 4m-10m class telescopes to do compositional studies on NEOs.

  • Alan Harris of JPL estimated that about 18% of 1 km and above sized NEOs have been discovered, but there are large population uncertainties. However, we are still discovering asteroids at too slow a rate (8-20 times).

  • There are currently a number of space missions to asteroids and comets. This is a "Golden Age" for studying comets and asteroids according to Don Yeomans.

  • NASA is increasing funds for NEO research, and has set up its own US JPL program office.

  • UK efforts need increased government interest. Recent events have shown that there is official acceptance of seriousness of problem. In the UK we have a wealth of experience, even in (eg) 4m class telescopes. VISTA could be a wonderful tool.

  • Japan is pressing ahead with its new NEO detection programme.

  • There is an urgent need for some follow up programmes, and more funding (staff) for the MPC. Ted Bowell proposed changes to the MPC that were highly controversial, raising questions of control and IAU international control. No consensus was reached.

  • European possibilities were discussed eg DLR, ODAS, including the use of ESO facilities.

  • The number of inner Earth objects is thought to be similar to the number of Atens. Both can be easy to find, provided that you look at smaller solar elongations.

  • Group 1 discussions emphasised the need for Southern Hemisphere telescopes (economic and political).

  • Group 2 discussions emphasised the need for research into NEO physical characteristics.

  • In Group 3 the importance of precoveries and plate log searches was stressed. There was some emphasis on UKST archive. This would also be an obvious role for the NSC. There was a strong recommendation that analysis of PHAs should always be performed by at least two independent groups.

  • Group 4 developed a protocol, primarily for IAU purposes, dealing with the announcement of PHOs. In the plenary session there was some confused discussion, and eventually a shorter agreed document was approved. This emphasised the need for individual nations to discuss the issue; what do public, politicians and decision makers require? The need for a National Spaceguard Centre is obvious.

  • R. Binzel discussed his new hazard scale, but J. Tate has already produced something broadly acceptable for UK purposes. This scale is designed for use when talking to the general public or the media. D. Morrison observed that "people just don't understand probability". S. Isobe reckoned that the index was a good lecturing tool, but not good for communicating with the mass media.

Please be aware that this is a far from complete report, but I hope that something of the workshop's flavour comes through.

Jay Tate
Spaceguard UK

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