Welcome to the website of the
Asteroids and Remote Planets Section
The aim of the Section is to offer something of interest to active, virtual and armchair observers, e.g.; visual telescopic observing, imaging using your own equipment (photographic, CCD, webcam), remote observing, working with on-line resources, orbital studies, the impact hazard, the history of discovery and observation, as well as keeping up-to-date on the findings of the latest space missions to these minor bodies. Please report your observations of asteroids to the ARPS Director at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
During November 9-12, three asteroids (228 Agathe, 2043 Ortutay and 6426 Komurotoru) happen to pass close to one another as seen in the constellation of Taurus. In reality these objects are very well spaced apart: they just happen to lie close together when seen along our line of sight. You therefore have an opportunity to simultaneously observe all three bodies in the same CCD field of view. The best nights are Nov 10/11 and Nov 11/12 when they will all be contained within a patch of sky some 22' across. The earlier night will be best of all as the Moon will be further away and a little fainter then. The apparition will be favourable as the field will be relatively high in the sky throughout most of the night - visible from 2000UT-0600UT as seen from the UK.
The Plan: We already know the rotation period of 228 Agathe (6.5 hours) but do not know the periods for the other two objects. If several observers take time-series of these minor planets, we may have enough data to solve the two unknown rotation rates. Another, more novel approach would be to try and detect any significant colour changes (by measuring the colour of each expressed relative to the others) during the course of a night. The minimum requirement would be to take alternative series of images (say 10 at a time) through two different filters (e.g. using V and R filters) for several hours. Very few asteroids are known to exhibit colour variation as they rotate. It would be good to discover some new ones!
Graham Relf has posted a full chart depicting the appulse here on the Computing Section webpages. All three asteroids are 14th magnitude so you'll need a fairly large scope to participate effectively. For more details, or if you are planning to attempt observations then do contact the Director. Here's a plot of their motion between November 5-20 - the grid shown is about 1 degree square:
Section member Alex Pratt is a keen occultation observer for which he uses an integrating Mintron video camera and GPS time-inserter to record asteroidal and lunar occultations of stars. Recently he used his observing equipment to record the passage of some fast-moving asteroids, notably 1998 QE2 and 2012 DA14. Exposure times as short as 0.04 sec per frame can be employed yet, using relatively wide-field optics, several field stars were recorded in addition to the asteroids and so it was possible to measure the astrometric positions of the movers with high precision thanks to the very accurate time stamp on each frame. What made all the difference was the availability of the software TANGRA 1.4 written by Hristo Pavlov with which it is possible to analyse the frames for both astrometry and photometry.
Thankfully, Alex has compiled A Guide to Video Astrometry for anyone wishing to try using a video camera for measuring the positions of very fast-moving objects (VFMOs). This 2.2 Mb PDF is a nice step-by-step 'How-To' guide which sets out all aspects of the process involved and includes relevant weblinks. His results proved good to an accuracy of about 0.2 arcseconds even for an object moving at a rate of some 10 arcsec per second of time! He even used the equipment to measure the positions of some main-belt asteroids, which after submitting these to the Minor Planet Center enabled him to receive his own IAU Observatory Code (Z92). Great work, Alex!
I am currently looking at the Observing Programme of the section with a view to relaunching a range of options for members: from visual observational approaches to more advanced topics based on CCD imaging. If you have any suggestions or ideas then do please get in touch - I'd love to hear from you. Once this has been completed, I shall set up a new webpage. On May 29, I gave a talk at the Ordinary Meeting of the Association held at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, entitled "The Observing Programme of the Asteroids and Remote Planets Section". You can listen to the talk and view the presentation thanks to my colleague, Nick James who has uploaded an audio recording in MP3 format and slides in JPEG format to the BAA website. The files are in Zipped format and can be downloaded from here (you'll need to login as a BAA member to access this):
As I write this note (on May 31 at 20:50 UT) asteroid 1998 QE2 is making its closest approach to the Earth reaching 10th magnitude as it does so and will be visible from most locations on the Earth during the next week or so. Radar observations made on May 29-30 from Goldstone indicate the object is around 2.7 km across and reveal the presence of a companion object about 0.6 km in diameter in orbit around the primary. Even at closest approach, the system is about 16 times further from the Earth than is our Moon so it is travelling at a relatively sedate speed across the sky climbing towards more northerly declinations as it does so.
A gallery comprising all observing reports received to date can be reached via the following thumbnail:
The following UK-based observers have obtained images, submitted reports, videos, etc.:
Peter Birtwhistle, Damian Peach, Nick Quinn, Richard Fleet, Ian Sharp and David Briggs from southern England, Peter Carson from Essex, Martin Willock from York, Steve Johnston in central England (visual, remarking on its orangish hue), Jay Tate from Spaceguard UK, mid-Wales, Dave Storey from Isle of Man, Roy Tillcock from Isle of Wight, David Strange and Steve Bullen from south-west England, Robin Leadbeater (who also obtained a spectrum of the object!), Ray Emery and Alex Pratt from northern England, Denis Buczynski from Scotland, and Kieran Rooney from N. Ireland. Also animation courtesy of Bill Ward available.
Many observers at the Norman Lockyer Observatory and the Hampshire Astronomical Group at Clanfield succeeded in seeing it visually. You can also connect to the observations which have already been posted on the Web by clicking on the name of the observer indicated in blue font above.
Unlike the bolide seen and felt in the Urals earlier the same day, the dramatic passage of near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 had been forecast one year in advance thanks to it having been discovered last February by amateur astronomers at the La Sagra Sky Survey in Spain (MPC Code J75).
Reaching 7th magnitude, it is the brightest-ever NEO to be observed approaching the vicinity of our planet (<0.1 AU) and visible with modest telescopic aid, e.g. binoculars. 2012 DA14 passed about 14x closer to the Earth than our companion Moon. To put this in perspective, scientists at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office in Pasadena, California estimate that an asteroid the size of 2012 DA14 flies this close every 40 years on average and that one will impact Earth, on average, about once in every 1,200 years!
Nick James and Dominic Ford had organised and undertaken a live webcast of the 2012 DA14 close-approach, by periodically updating live images from a small telescope with a field of view of around 1 degree. Unfortunately cloudy skies have dogged the attempt with just the occasional star or two being visible from time to time. The animation generally showed only passing clouds. This new facility should however prove useful as the BAA should now be able to furnish live webcasts of interesting celestial events in the future.
A challenge for observers was suggested:- that was to pick a site where you have a low eastern horizon and try and image the fast-mover as soon as possible after it rises. The further east your location the better chance you would have had. There'll be a prize for anyone observing from the UK who records the earliest image of 2012 DA14 !
WINNER: is David Briggs who secured his first image using the 24" telescope of the Hampshire Astronomical Group at 20:05 UT when the asteroid was just 8 degrees above the horizon.
A small asteroid entered the Earth's atmosphere about 3:20 UT on 2013 Feb 15 over the Urals in Russia, exploding with the energy equivalent in the range of 0.1-0.3 megaton TNT, which makes it the most energetic such event since the Tunguska exposion of 1908 according to Dr Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario . The object was reported to have travelled from north-east to south-west and so there can be no possible association with 2012 DA14 since otherwise it would have to have approached from the south direction and headed almost directly northwards. These two objects are therefore totally unrelated. See for example this collection of videos and still photos.
We held this very successful joint meeting with the BAA Comet Section on 2012 October 6 at the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.
The Meeting Report is now available which includes links to seven of the presentations.
Nick James has kindly provided mp3 sound and jpeg copies of the slides shown by each speaker on the day in the form of zipped files available here.
(photo: David Briggs)
(left to right: S. Duddy, G. Williams, L. Buzzi, S. Lowry, G. Relf, R. Dymock, R. Miles, S. Green, E. Ansbro, J. Shanklin and N. James
The News archive can be accessed here
The What to observe page lists many different aspects of observing and imaging together with current projects as well as ephemerides and other useful information from the current 2013 Handbook of the BAA.