The Spacewatch program at the University of Arizona has pioneered automatic methods of detecting Near Earth Objects. Our software presently includes three modes of object detection: automatic motion identification; automatic streak identification; and visual streak identification. For automatic motion detection at sidereal drift rates, the 4σ detection threshold is near magnitude V = 20.9 for nearly stellar asteroid images. The automatic streak detection is able to locate streaks whose peak signal is above ~4σ and whose length is longer than about 10 pixels. Some visually detected streaks have had peak signals near ~1σ.
Between 1990 September 25 and 1993 June 30, 45 new Near Earth asteroids, two comets and two Centaur's have been discovered with the system. An additional six comets, five Near Earth asteroids, and one Centaur were also “re-discovered”. The system has directly detected for the first time Near Earth Objects in the complete size range from about 5 kilometers to about 5 meters. Each month ~2,000 main belt asteroids are also detected.
Future upgrades in both hardware, software, and telescope aperture may allow an order of magnitude increase in the rate of discovery of Near Earth Objects in the next several years. Several of the techniques proposed for the Spaceguard Survey have already been tested by Spacewatch, and others will need to be tested in the near future before such a survey can be implemented.