USNO programs to improve the optical reference frame


Sean E. Urban, Washington, DC


Complete text (abstract only):

The United States Naval Observatory (USNO) is working toward improving the optical reference frame by two approaches: 1) converting older data to the Hipparcos system and; 2) making new, high quality observations. Taken together, these approaches will improve individual proper motion of stars, extend the frame to magnitude 16.5 by adding 60 million additional stars, and strengthen the tie between the optical and radio frames.

A new reference catalog, currently called »ACT 2« (an acronym from the words Astrographic Catalog and Tycho), is being compiled. The main difference between this new catalog and the ACT is that the Astrographic Catalogue (AC) data will be re-reduced with a new version of ACRS (Astrographic Catalog Reference Stars), whose 160 input catalogs are being directly transformed to the ICRS via Hipparcos. Additionally, the AC data will not only be combined with the Tycho positions to form the proper motions (as was the case with ACT), but they will be added to the positional data from all catalogs forming the ACRS. Then, for each star, a comparison of the standard errors of proper motion will be made between these data, the Hipparcos catalog and Tycho catalog. In each case, the best astrometry will be extracted to form the ACT 2.

The ACT 2 will be utilized in the reduction of the USNO CCD Astrograph (UCAC-S) program. This program, currently in progress at CTIO, uses the newly automated USNO CCD Astrograph and a 4k-by-4k Kodak CCD camera to observe the entire Southern Hemisphere down to mv = 16.5. Positional accuracies of the final catalog are expected to be 20 mas for stars of mv = 7.5 to 15.0; the accuracies degrade to 60 mas for stars at mv = 16.5. Additional deep exposures are being taken surrounding 200 of the brighter ICRF sources. With these deep exposures, an investigation of the rotation in the Hipparcos proper motion system at a level of 0.1 mas/year will be made.

To derive proper motions for the stars in the UCAC-S project, the observed positions will be combined with the first and second epoch POSS, ESO and AAO Schmidt surveys, currently being measured and reduced at USNO Flagstaff. The result will be a catalog of 60 million stars with proper motion standard errors in the 3 to 5 mas/yr range.

Bibliographical details:

Sean E. Urban: USNO programs to improve the optical reference frame. In: Peter Brosche, Wolfgang R. Dick, Oliver Schwarz, Roland Wielen (Eds.): The Message of the Angles - Astrometry from 1798 to 1998. Proceedings of the International Spring Meeting of the Astronomische Gesellschaft, Gotha, May 11-15, 1998. (Acta Historica Astronomiae ; 3). Thun ; Frankfurt am Main : Deutsch, 1998, p. 147.