NEOCC turns 10
ESA’s NEO Coordination Centre turned 10 years old this 22 of May. The Centre was inaugurated back in 2013 inside ESA’s ESRIN establishment close to Rome (Italy). It was a lucky coincidence that the Centre was opened just a few months after the most relevant asteroid impact event of the last hundred years, i.e. the Chelyabinsk event over Russia, which has fostered a surge on Planetary Defence activities ever since. The then ESA’s Space Situational Awareness Programme (since 2020 renamed as the Space Safety Programme) had been active since 2009 and had paved the way to the creation of the NEOCC.
At the time the NEOCC was inaugurated, slightly less than 10 000 NEOs had already been discovered. In just 10 years, that number has multiplied by more than three: during that period there have been twice as many discoveries as in the previous 100 years!
Since the start of operations of ESA’s NEOCC, the capabilities of the centre have steadily improved and expanded, starting from an initial federation of already existing services, and evolving into a fully independent operational system. A summary of some relevant achievements reached in these 10 years follows:
- May 2013: inauguration of the NEOCC at ESRIN, including the federation of several European NEO services (e.g. NEODyS data, EARN data, NEO chronology, NEO priority list, etc)
- April 2015: ESA and the NEOCC host the 4th Planetary Defense Conference at ESRIN
- Mid-2015: inauguration of the Test-Bed Telescope #1 in Cebreros (Spain)
- Nov 2018: incorporation into the NEOCC of full orbit determination capabilities
- Nov 2020: incorporation into the NEOCC of full impact monitoring capabilities
- March 2021: release of a new version of the NEOCC web portal
- April 2021: inauguration of the Test-Bed Telescope #2 in La Silla (Chile)
- Oct 2021: inauguration of the new NEOCC building at ESRIN
- Sep 2022: release of the NEO Toolkit in the NEOCC web portal
A recording of the inauguration session and the 2013 talks is available in this link.
To celebrate the event, the NEOCC staff visited the Specola Vaticana in Castel Gandolfo (in the Roman outskirts) and its meteorite collection. We are very grateful for the kind visit to the premises provided by Br. Robert Macke.
NEOCC staff at the Specola Vaticana. Credit: ESA / PDO / Vatican Observatory