Atlas:A high-cadence all-sky survey system

J. L. Tonry, L. Denneau, A. N. Heinze, B. Stalder, K. W. Smith, S. J. Smartt, C. W. Stubbs, H. J. Weiland, A. Rest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

189 Citations (Scopus)


Technology has advanced to the point that it is possible to image the entire sky every night and process the data in real time. The sky is hardly static: many interesting phenomena occur, including variable stationary objects such as stars or QSOs, transient stationary objects such as supernovae or M dwarf flares, and moving objects such as asteroids and the stars themselves. Funded by NASA, we have designed and built a sky survey system for the purpose of finding dangerous near-Earth asteroids (NEAs). This system, the “Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System” (ATLAS), has been optimized to produce the best survey capability per unit cost, and therefore is an efficient and competitive system for finding potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) but also for tracking variables and finding transients. While carrying out its NASA mission, ATLAS now discovers more bright (m<19) supernovae candidates than any ground based survey, frequently detecting very young explosions due to its 2 day cadence. ATLAS discovered the afterglow of a gamma-ray burst independent of the high energy trigger and has released a variable star catalog of 5×106 sources. This is the first of a series of articles describing ATLAS, devoted to the design and performance of the ATLAS system. Subsequent articles will describe in more detail the software, the survey strategy, ATLAS-derived NEA population statistics, transient detections, and the first data release of variable stars and transient light curves.

Original languageEnglish
Article number064505
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number988
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2018


  • Asteroids: general
  • Minor planets
  • Stars: variables: general
  • Supernovae: general
  • Surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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