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New observation system can detect asteroids that threaten Earth

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KISO, Nagano Prefecture–To find supernovas and more quickly detect asteroids on a collision course with Earth, researchers have started a new astronomical observation system of the night sky.

The system, called Tomoe Gozen, is equipped with high-performance cameras to film a huge area of the night sky and artificial intelligence technology to analyze the collected data.

It was developed mainly by researchers at the University of Tokyo and fully introduced at the university’s Kiso Observatory on Oct. 1.

“We want to make a finding that will surpass our expectations,” said Shigeyuki Sako, an assistant professor of astronomy at the Institute of Astronomy of the university’s graduate school.

The observation system is named after Tomoe Gozen, a female warlord who was active in the late Heian Period (794-1185) and has links with the Kiso region.

The system features a 105-centimeter Schmidt telescope at the observatory and 84 wide-angle video cameras. It can record a large celestial area with a size equivalent to 84 full moons and collect up to 30 terabytes of data–comparable to that of 10,000 films–in one night.

The system is designed to vividly capture how the universe changes in a short time.

Under the plan, observations will be conducted on 100 nights a year to analyze changes in the locations and brightness levels of more than 100 million celestial bodies observed daily.

The system is also expected to annually identify 100 asteroids approaching Earth.

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