The Flash Detection Software (FDS) is a tool for detecting impact flashes on the Moon. This software can be used by any amateur or professional astronomer performing planetary observations with video cameras or fast-frame CMOS/CCDs for data processing and flagging all potential flash events. The ultimate goal is to encourage and increase the observations of impact flashes from both professional and amateur astronomers and to enable verification of impact flashes from multiple sites. The software was developed and tested for lunar impact flash observations, however, its use on planets (e.g. Jupiter, Mars) is encouraged.
Near-Earth-Objects (NEO) and meteoroids are leftovers from the solar system formation process and are an essential part of the space environment. Smaller objects are more frequent but typically burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere and therefore pose little threat on the ground. However, orbiting spacecraft are not protected by the atmosphere and thus are at risk from collisions with small objects. The frequency and distribution of these objects are poorly understood, but the information is critical to quantify the risk posed to space assets. A fast-frame observation of impact events on a non-illuminated part of the Moon or on the surface of planets is a promising methodology for better estimating these parameters.
The NELIOTA project has been monitoring the Moon with the 1.2m Kryoneri telescope since early 2017, and has detected over 160 impact flashes to date (December 2022). Given the success of this project, the NELIOTA team developed a publically available open source tool for the detection of impact flashes. The FDS was developed under the ESA Contract Nr. 4000135574/21/NL/IB/gg and released in December 2022. The software is distributed using the ‘GNU lesser license’.
The Flash Detection Software (FDS) system is split into three separate functional domains regarding the operations:
- Observation, Online Detection and Recording Domain: Carries out the following processes simultaneously: i) observations with a telescope of the target and specific sources, ii) image acquisition with a camera system during the observations, iii) application of a real-time event-detecting algorithm, and iv) recording of image frames of suspected events and specific metadata on a storage device. All these processes are developed as a plugin for the FireCapture software.
- Offline Detection Domain: Processes the recorded images to classify them as true-positive or false-positive and extract helpful information regarding the event, such as the full-width at half-maximum value, and outputs a list of events and the frames containing events.
- Localization Domain: Performs the task of Localization of these Lunar Impact Flashes and determination of their selenographic coordinates (requires user interaction).