Early detection of asteroids with Earth-impact orbits is a fundamental part of the Planetary Defense strategy. Technology has advanced to the point where it is possible to image the entire sky each night and process the data in real time. Various surveys have been operating since the 1980s in search of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs). Right now, one of the most successful is the “Asteroid Terrestrial impact Last Alert System” (ATLAS). ATLAS is an early detection system for possible asteroid impacts developed by the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA (see https://atlas.fallingstar.com/home.php). It currently consists of four telescopes, two in Hawaii, one in Chile and one in South Africa, which observe ¼ of the sky four times a night each in search of moving objects. ATLAS is an efficient and competitive system to find potentially dangerous asteroids, but also to track variables and study different types of transient astronomical events (variable stars, quasars, supernovae or M dwarf eruptions). Since late 2015, ATLAS has discovered 751 near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), 76 PHAs, 69 comets, and 11,358 supernovae. The installation of an ATLAS unit in the OT is of interest to our observatory since it would position the OT at the head of the Planetary Defense plan, which will give the observatory international visibility (which is of strategic interest) in addition to giving access to the Spanish community to all ATLAS data, past and future. These results allow the development of cutting-edge science in different fields: small bodies of the solar system, supernovae, variable stars, gravitational lensing, AGNs, gravitational wave counterparts, etc. IAC astronomers have extensive experience in observing and characterizing small bodies in the Solar System, including the first physical characterization of PHAs. The synergies of the OOCC telescopes with ATLAS will make the OOCC a benchmark in the Planetary Defense strategy.
In the last call for proposals PROYECTO DE EQUIPAMIENTO CIENTÍFICO-TECNOLÓGICO PARA UN SERVICIO COMÚN DE INVESTIGACIÓN 2021, we have obtained the funds to build the fifth ATLAS unit and install it in the OT with the proposed Telescopio ATLAS en el Observatorio del Teide (EQC2021-007122 -P) based on a novel and improved design of previous ATLAS that has been developed between the IAC and ATLAS team. The new ATLAS will be based on a modular design using commercial optics, cameras and mounts (COTS). It will consist of 4 modules each with a mount that will have 4 28cm optics at f/D=2.2. The combination of these 16 telescopes will make it possible to obtain images of the same field of sky and with an even higher sensitivity (V < 19.5) than the previous ATLAS design, for a better cost, better and easier maintenance, and allowing greater flexibility in operation. The objective of this action is to finance the hiring of a computer engineer who works locally in the integration of the control of the new hardware in the ATLAS network software and a technician (higher graduate) who works in the supervision of the installation and set-up of ATLAS-Teide.