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Title: Expected Impact of Glints from Space Debris in the LSST
Abstract

We examine the simple model put forth in a recent note by Loeb regarding the brightness of space debris in the size range of 1–10 cm and their impact on the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) transient object searches. Their main conclusion was that “image contamination by untracked space debris might pose a bigger challenge [than large commercial satellite constellations in Low-Earth orbit].” Following corrections and improvements to this model, we calculate the apparent brightness of tumbling low-Earth orbit (LEO) debris of various sizes, and we briefly discuss the likely impact and potential mitigations of glints from space debris in LSST. We find the majority of the difference in predicted signal-to-noise ratio (S/N), about a factor of 6, arises from the defocus of LEO objects due to the large Simonyi Survey Telescope primary mirror and finite range of the debris. The largest change from the Loeb estimates is that 1–10 cm debris in LEO pose no threat to LSST transient object alert generation because their S/N for detection will be much lower than estimated by Loeb due to defocus. We find that only tumbling LEO debris larger than 10 cm or with significantly greater reflectivity, which give 1 ms glints, might be detected with high confidence (S/N > 5). We estimate that only one in five LSST exposures low on the sky during twilight might be affected. More slowly tumbling objects of larger size can give flares in brightness that are easily detected; however, these will not be cataloged by the LSST Science Pipelines because of the resulting long streak.

 
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Award ID(s):
2205095
NSF-PAR ID:
10506105
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Volume:
966
Issue:
2
ISSN:
2041-8205
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: Article No. L38
Size(s):
Article No. L38
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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