THE Bathurst Observatory Research Facility will begin work this week on a new telescope to monitor asteroids.
Manager Ray Pickard said the Bathurst Asteroid Research Telescope would specifically target asteroids that are passing by earth’s orbit.
“It will collect information on the way they are orbiting and whether or not they have the potential to collide with earth in the future,” he said.
“The data will then be sent to the Minor Planet Center in the US.”
Mr Pickard said collecting data was important to ensure astronomers were not caught off guard.
He said last Thursday night social media websites lit up from around 9.40pm with reports of sightings of a bright object with a long tail shooting over Victoria, Tasmania and NSW.
According to reports, the fireball was believed to be a piece of a Russian rocket used to launch a weather satellite from Kazahkstan last Tuesday.
Fairfax Media reported that NASA had been tracking the rocket and had alerted Nobel Prize winning astronomer Brian Schmidt about what was coming.
Mr Pickard said collecting data on asteroids would help ensure that astronomers were aware of when meteors may be headed for earth.
He said the observatory would be refurbishing an existing telescope to make the specialist asteroid research telescope, which he hoped would be ready for use within four months.
“Refurbishments will be done to modernise an existing telescope,” he said.
“We will be modernising the telescope mount and computerising the telescope so that it is fully automated.”
Mr Pickard said the observatory had been planning to build the asteroid research telescope since staff attended a NASA conference in Houston late last year.
“At the conference they called for more observation of asteroids and we decided we would like to do some asteroid research,” he said.
Mr Pickard said there were very few asteroid research telescopes in the southern hemisphere and he was excited to have one here in Bathurst.
“It is exciting that the work we do regionally will be able to contribute to science research done worldwide.”