Hunting for asteroids at twilight is turning up space rocks we normally wouldn’t see

The Víctor M. Blanco 4-m Telescope and other telescopes on a mountain peak in Chile at sunset | Image: CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/B. Tafresh

For decades, the standard way to search for asteroids in our Solar System has been to scan the night sky for fast-moving specks of light — but a new method of hunting for these space rocks at twilight is also proving fruitful. It’s much harder to pull off, but by scanning parts of the sky at dusk, astronomers have been able to find key asteroids they wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

The two largest asteroid finders at the moment are the Pan-STARRS observatory out of Hawaii and the Catalina Sky Survey, which operates multiple telescopes out of Arizona. For the last decade, these two programs have been the premier hunters of near-Earth asteroids. But they primarily search the sky at night, looking away from the Sun. That limits the parts of…

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