A Deep and Wide Twilight Survey for Asteroids Interior to Earth and Venus

Scott S. Sheppard, David J. Tholen, Petr Pokorný, Marco Micheli, Ian Dell'antonio, Shenming Fu, Chadwick A. Trujillo, Rachael Beaton, Scott Carlsten, Alex Drlica-Wagner, Clara Martínez-Vázquez, Sidney Mau, Toni Santana-Ros, Luidhy Santana-Silva, Cristóbal Sifón, Sunil Simha, Audrey Thirouin, David Trilling, A. Katherina Vivas, Alfredo Zenteno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We are conducting a survey using twilight time on the Dark Energy Camera with the Blanco 4 m telescope in Chile to look for objects interior to Earth's and Venus' orbits. To date we have discovered two rare Atira/Apohele asteroids, 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27, which have orbits completely interior to Earth's orbit. We also discovered one new Apollo-type Near Earth Object (NEO) that crosses Earth's orbit, 2022 AP7. Two of the discoveries have diameters 31 km. 2022 AP7 is likely the largest Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) discovered in about eight years. To date we have covered 624 square degrees of sky near to and interior to the orbit of Venus. The average images go to 21.3 mag in the r band, with the best images near 22nd mag. Our new discovery 2021 PH27 has the smallest semimajor axis known for an asteroid, 0.4617 au, and the largest general relativistic effects (53 arcsec/century) known for any body in the solar system. The survey has detected 1/415% of all known Atira NEOs. We put strong constraints on any stable population of Venus co-orbital resonance objects existing, as well as the Atira and Vatira asteroid classes. These interior asteroid populations are important to complete the census of asteroids near Earth, including some of the most likely Earth impactors that cannot easily be discovered in other surveys. Comparing the actual population of asteroids found interior to Earth and Venus with those predicted to exist by extrapolating from the known population exterior to Earth is important to better understand the origin, composition, and structure of the NEO population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number168
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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