The uncertainty of the close approach distance of a Potentially Hazardous Object (PHO), either an asteroid or a comet, can be represented on the Modified Target Plane (MTP), a modification of the one used by Öpik. The MTP is orthogonal to the geocentric velocity at the closest approach along the nominal orbit, solution of the least square fit to the observations. The confidence regions of this solution in the 6-D space of orbital elements (for an epoch close to the observations) are well approximated by a family of concentric ellipsoids, if the observed arc is not too short. In the linear approximation these ellipsoids are mapped on the MTP into concentric ellipses, which can be computed by solving for the state transition matrix.
For a PHO observed at only one opposition, with a close approach expected after many revolutions, the ellipses on the MTP become extremely elongated and the linear approximation may fail. In this case the confidence boundaries on the MTP, i.e. the nonlinear images of the confidence ellipsoids, may not be well approximated by the ellipses. The Monte Carlo method (Muinonen and Bowell, 1993) can be used to find nonlinear confidence regions, but the computational load is very heavy: to estimate a low probability event the number of test cases must be larger than the inverse of the probability. We propose a new method to compute semilinear confidence boundaries on the MTP (Milani and Valsecchi, 1998), based on the theory developed to compute confidence boundaries for predicted observations (Milani, 1999). This method is a good compromise between reliability and computational load, and can be used for real time risk assessment.