Last updated 2014April 16
(Please be aware that some of the links on this page may no longer be active. Inactive ones so identified have been removed.
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!
Unlike the bolide seen and felt in the Urals earlier the same day, the dramatic passage of near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 has 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). Today 2012 DA14 will approach to within about 27,600 km of the Earth's surface at about 19:24 UT whilst travelling at 7.8 km/sec. During the last week many more observatories have imaged the object, in particular; Mount John Observatory, New Zealand (MPC Code 474); the 2.0-m Faulkes Telescope South (which is now back in business after last month's devastating bushfires which badly affected Siding Spring and the surrounding community) (MPC Code E10); as well as the new LCOGT 1.0-m 'B' telescope at Cerro Tololo, Chile (MPC Code W86). Just 7 hours before closest approach (bca), Dave Herald of Murrumbateman, Australia has captured an image of the intruder, which appears to show the object some 0.5 magnitudes brighter than expected. Dave's latest image was obtained 4 hours bca.
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 will pass 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 has undertaken a live webcast of the 2012
DA14 close-approach periodically updating live images from a small telescope with a field of view of around 1
degree. as available here:
Unfortunately cloudy skies have dogged the attempt with just the occasional star or two being visible from time to time. The animation has generally shown only passing clouds
If you wish to observe the interloper yourself then, depending on your location, you are advised to obtain your local topocentric RA and Dec coordinates from websites such as can be found at:
Remember to enter either your latitude and longitude, or the MPC Code of a nearby observatory.
I have prepared a chart for the interval 19:50-21:00 UT in anticipation of its visibility soonafter it rises near the eastern horizon as seen from the southern UK.
A second chart covers the later period, 21:00-01:00 UT on the evening of Feb 15/16. Full observing details and a 5-minute ephemerides for UK observers are also available here. The charts are probably useable by all UK observers since the object will be conspicuous owing to the fact that it will be seen to be moving in real time. Look with binoculars or a small telescope within a degree or so of the predicted position at any given time and it should 'jump out' as a moving star.
Here's a challenge for observers: 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'll have. There'll be a prize for anyone observing from the UK who records the earliest image of 2012 DA14 ! Please report your observations to the ARPS Director at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
NASA have set up a very informative webpage with useful FAQs, orbit diagrams and some videos of interviews, etc.
Pavlov. In March this year the
asteroid 2009 DD45 come very close to the Earth and became bright enough to be
observed by amateurs. Back then
As a result a guide to video astrometry was put together and made available. It can be downloaded from the MPC web site: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/iau/info/VideoAstrometry.pdf
there is another NEO which is coming close to us. It will not be as fast as
DD45 but will be almost as bright. On
Knowing the position of the target is essential and to get an accurate ephemeris you will need to use the MPC ephemeris service: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/iau/MPEph/MPEph.html
From 2009 DD45, I remember that finding the target was the most difficult part of the observation. You will want to have available the position of the object every 15 min. In case you loose it you can go to the next expected position and wait for it to come.
2009 UN3 will be an excellent opportunity for occultationists with integrating video cameras or bigger telescopes to try another area in which amateurs can make a difference. So don't wait but read the video astrometry guide and get ready to observe. And remember for astrometry you need as many stars as you can get in the FOV and the target does not have to be in the center.
The near-Earth object, designated 2010 AB78, was discovered by WISE Jan. 12. The mission's sophisticated software picked out the moving object against a background of stationary stars. As WISE circled Earth, scanning the sky above, it observed the asteroid several times during a period of one-and-a-half days before the object moved beyond its view. Researchers then used the University of Hawaii's 2.2-meter (88-inch) visible-light telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea to follow up and confirm the discovery.
The asteroid is currently about 158 million kilometers (98 million miles) from Earth. It is estimated to be roughly 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) in diameter and circles the sun in an elliptical orbit tilted to the
plane of our solar system. The object comes as close to the sun as Earth, but because of its tilted orbit, it will not pass very close to Earth for many centuries. This asteroid does not pose any foreseeable
impact threat to Earth, but scientists will continue to monitor it.
Near-Earth objects are asteroids and comets with orbits that pass relatively close to Earth's path around the sun. In extremely rare cases of an impact, the objects may cause damage to Earth's surface. An
asteroid about 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide is thought to have plunged into our planet 65 million years ago, triggering a global disaster and killing off the dinosaurs.
Additional asteroid and comet detections will continue to come from WISE. The observations will be automatically sent to the clearinghouse for solar system bodies, the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., for comparison against the known catalog of solar system objects. A community of professional and amateur astronomers will provide follow-up observations, establishing firm orbits for the previously unseen objects.
"This is just the beginning," said Ned Wright, the mission's principal investigator from UCLA. "We've got a fire hose of data pouring down from space."
On Jan. 14, the WISE mission began its official survey of the entire sky in infrared light, one month after it rocketed into a polar orbit around Earth from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. By casting a wide net, the mission will catch all sorts of cosmic objects, from asteroids in our own solar system to galaxies billions of light-years away. Its data will serve as a cosmic treasure map, pointing astronomers and telescopes, such as NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, to the most interesting finds.
is expected to find about 100,000 previously unknown asteroids in our main
asteroid belt, a rocky ring of debris between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
It will also spot hundreds of previously unseen near-Earth objects.
By observing infrared light, WISE will reveal the darkest members of the near-Earth object population -- those that don't reflect much visible light. The mission will contribute important information about asteroid and comet sizes. Visible-light estimates of an asteroid's size can be deceiving, because a small, light-colored space rock can look the same as a big, dark one. In infrared, however, a big dark rock will give off more of a thermal, or infrared glow, and reveal its true size. This size information will give researchers a better estimate of how often Earth can expect potentially devastating impacts.
"We are thrilled to have found our first new near-Earth object," said Amy Mainzer of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Mainzer is the principal investigator of NEOWISE, a program to mine the collected WISE data for new solar system objects. "Many programs are searching for near-Earth objects using visible light, but some asteroids are dark, like pavement, and don't reflect a lot of sunlight. But like a parking lot, the dark objects heat up and emit infrared light that WISE can see."
"It is great to receive the first of many anticipated near-Earth object discoveries by the WISE system," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. "Analysis of the WISE data will go a long way toward understanding the true nature of this population." (This created a certain amount of what might be called ‘excitement’ on the
A new report from the National Research Council lays out options NASA could follow to detect more near-Earth objects (NEOs) -- asteroids and comets that could pose a hazard if they cross Earth’s orbit. The report says the $4 million the U.S. spends annually to search for NEOs is insufficient to meet a congressionally mandated requirement to detect NEOs that could threaten Earth.
Congress mandated in 2005 that NASA discover 90 percent of NEOs whose diameter is 140 meters or greater by 2020, and asked the National Research Council in 2008 to form a committee to determine the optimum approach to doing so. In an interim report released last year, the committee concluded that it was impossible for NASA to meet that goal, since Congress has not appropriated new funds for the survey nor has the administration asked for them.
In its final report, the committee lays out two approaches that would allow NASA to complete its goal soon after the 2020 deadline; the approach chosen would depend on the priority policymakers attach to spotting NEOs. If finishing NASA’s survey as close as possible to the original 2020 deadline is considered most important, a mission using a space-based telescope conducted in concert with observations from a suitable ground-based telescope is the best approach, the report says. If conserving costs is deemed most important, the use of a ground-based telescope only is preferable.
The report also recommends that NASA monitor for smaller objects -- those down to 30 to 50 meters in diameter -- which recent research suggests can be highly destructive. However, the report stresses that searching for smaller objects should not interfere with first fulfilling the mandate from Congress. Beyond completion of that mandate, the report notes the need for constant vigilance in monitoring the skies, so as to detect all dangerous NEOs. In addition, the nation should undertake a peer-reviewed research program to better investigate the many unknown aspects connected with detecting NEOs and countering those that could be a threat. The U.S. should also take the lead in organizing an international entity to develop a detailed plan for dealing with hazards from these objects.
In addition, the report recommends that immediate action be taken to ensure the continued operation of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. NASA and NSF should support a vigorous program of NEO observations at Arecibo, and NASA should also support such a program at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex. Although these facilities cannot discover NEOs, they play an important role in accurately determining the orbits and characterizing the properties of NEOs within radar range.
The Scope of the Hazard
Near-Earth objects are asteroids and comets that orbit the Sun and approach or cross Earth’s orbit. An asteroid or comet about 10 kilometers in diameter struck the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago and caused global devastation, probably wiping out large numbers of plant and animal species including the dinosaurs. Objects as large as this one strike Earth only about once every 100 million years on average, the report notes. NASA has been highly successful at detecting and tracking objects 1 kilometer in diameter or larger, and continues to search for these large objects. Objects down to sizes of about 140 meters in diameter -- which NASA has been mandated to survey for -- would cause regional damage; such impacts happen on average every 30,000 years, the report says.
While impacts by large NEOs are rare, a single impact could inflict extreme damage, raising the classic problem of how to confront a possibility that is both very rare and very important. Far more likely are those impacts that cause only moderate damage and few fatalities. Conducting surveys for NEOs and detailed studies of ways to mitigate collisions is best viewed as a form of insurance, the report says. How much to spend on these insurance premiums is a decision that must be made by the nation’s policymakers.
The report also examines what is known about methods to defend against NEOs. These methods are new and still immature. No single approach is effective for the full range of near-Earth objects, the committee concluded. But with sufficient warning, a suite of four types of mitigation is adequate to meet the threat from all NEOs, except the most energetic ones.
* Civil defense (evacuation, sheltering in place, providing emergency
infrastructure) is a cost-effective mitigation measure for saving lives from the smallest NEO impact events and is a necessary part of mitigation for larger events.
* “Slow push” or “slow pull” methods use a spacecraft to exert force on the target object to gradually change its orbit to avoid collision with the Earth. This technique is practical only for small NEOs (tens of meters to roughly 100 meters in diameter) or possibly for medium-sized objects (hundreds of meters), but would likely require decades of warning. Of the slow push/pull techniques, the gravity tractor appears to be by far the closest to technological readiness.
* Kinetic methods, which fly a spacecraft into the NEO to change its orbit, could defend against moderately sized objects (many hundreds of meters to 1 kilometer in diameter), but also may require decades of warning time.
* Nuclear explosions are the only current, practical means for dealing with large NEOs (diameters greater than 1 kilometer) or as a backup for smaller ones if other methods were to fail.
Although all of these methods are conceptually valid, none is now ready to implement on short notice, the report says. Civil defense and kinetic impactors are probably the closest to readiness, but even these require additional study prior to reliance on them.
Given the significant unknowns about many aspects of the threat and its mitigation, the report recommends that the U.S. start a peer-reviewed, targeted research program on the hazards posed by NEOs, and how to deal with them. Because this is a policy-driven, applied research program, it should not be in competition with basic scientific research programs or be funded from them, the report adds.
The study was sponsored by NASA at the request of Congress. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. A committee roster follows.
Copies of “Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies” are available from the National Academies Press, telephone +1 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242, or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12842.
The proposed missions would probe the atmosphere and crust of Venus; return a piece of a near-Earth asteroid for analysis; or drop a robotic lander into a basin at the moon's south pole to return lunar
rocks back to Earth for study.
NASA will select one proposal for full development after detailed mission concept studies are completed and reviewed. The studies begin during 2010, and the selected mission must be ready for launch no
later than Dec. 30, 2018. Mission cost, excluding the launch vehicle, is limited to $650 million.
"These are projects that inspire and excite young scientists, engineers and the public," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These three proposals provide the best science value among eight submitted to NASA this year."
Each proposal team initially will receive approximately $3.3 million in 2010 to conduct a 12-month mission concept study that focuses on implementation feasibility, cost, management and technical plans.
Studies also will include plans for educational outreach and small business opportunities.
The selected proposals are: The Surface and Atmosphere Geochemical Explorer, or SAGE, mission to Venus would release a probe to descend through the planet's atmosphere. During descent, instruments would conduct extensive measurements of the atmosphere's composition and obtain meteorological data. The probe then would land on the surface of Venus, where its abrading tool would expose both a weathered and a pristine surface area to measure its composition and mineralogy. Scientists hope to understand the origin of Venus and why it is so different from Earth. Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado in Boulder, is the principal investigator.
The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer spacecraft, called Osiris-Rex, would rendezvous and orbit a primitive asteroid. After extensive measurements, instruments would collect more than two ounces of material from the asteriod's surface for return to Earth. The returned samples would help scientists better understand and answer long-held questions about the formation of our solar system and the origin of complex molecules necessary for life. Michael Drake, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, is the principal investigator.
MoonRise: Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return Mission would place a lander in a broad basin near the moon's south pole and return approximately two pounds of lunar materials for study. This region of the lunar surface is believed to harbor rocks excavated from the moon's mantle. The samples would provide new insight into the early history of the Earth-moon system. Bradley Jolliff, of Washington University in St. Louis, is the principal investigator.
The proposals were submitted to NASA on July 31, 2009, in response to the New Frontiers Program 2009 Announcement of Opportunity. New Frontiers seeks to explore the solar system with frequent,
medium-class spacecraft missions that will conduct high-quality, focused scientific investigations designed to enhance understanding of the solar system.
The final selection will become the third mission in the program. New Horizons, NASA's first New Frontiers mission, launched in 2006, will fly by the Pluto-Charon system in 2014 then target another Kuiper Belt object for study. The second mission, called Juno, is designed to orbit Jupiter from pole to pole for the first time, conducting an in-depth study of the giant planet's atmosphere and interior. It is
slated for launch in August 2011. For more information about the New Frontiers Program, visit: http://newfrontiers
Most models of Solar System formation posit that the planets formed from the collision and eventual coalescence of planetesimals. Beyond the orbit of Mars, the gravitational perturbation of the giant planet Jupiter prevented the formation of a planet-sized body by disrupting the orbits of many of these planetesimals. The remaining bodies, some of them several hundred kilometres in size, have undergone frequent collisions since this time and today mostly occupy the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids are of interest for understanding the formation process of our Solar System because they carry information about the nature and composition of the Solar System at an early stage of its formation. Asteroid (2867) Steins, an E-type asteroid, is a rare type of solar system body. Only a few tens of these asteroids have been detected.
In the results published in the 8 January issue of Science, H. Uwe Keller and colleagues report on observations of asteroid Steins obtained during the Rosetta flyby of 5 September 2008. This is the first time
that a close-up view of an E-type asteroid has been obtained. The closest approach to the asteroid was at 18:38:20 UTC at a distance of 803 km. About 60 per cent of the surface was resolved during the flyby providing a unique set of images from which a number of important physical properties can be inferred.
Little was known about asteroid (2867) Steins when it was chosen early in 2004 as one of the targets for a close flyby during the Rosetta mission. At the time, it was classified as an E-type asteroid on the
basis of its visual and near-infrared spectrum and its high albedo. Later, ground-based observations estimated a diameter of approximately 4.6 km and determined a rotation period of about 6 hours.
The new OSIRIS images show Steins to be an oblate body, resembling a brilliant cut diamond, with dimensions of 6.67x 5.81 x 4.47 kmÂ³. Its surface is mostly covered with shallow craters with some of the larger craters being pitted with smaller ones. Analysis of the impact craters reveals a deficit of small craters (those with diameter less than 0.5 km) which Keller and his colleagues attribute to surface reshaping as a result of the Yarkovsky-O'
Two remarkable features are clearly visible in the images obtained near closest approach: a large, 2.1 km diameter crater located at the south pole, and a chain of pits which extend northwards from this crater. Taken together these features suggest that Steins was subject to a big impact which created the large crater and caused fracturing of the asteroid body resulting in it having a rubble pile structure. This type of loosely-bound structure is also consistent with the YORP effect hypothesis.
Detailed study of the OSIRIS images has also allowed Keller and his colleagues to confirm the nature of Steins as an E-type asteroid – the albedo and spectral characteristics are consistent with this
classification - and to demonstrate that there is no measurable surface colour variation, which points to a homogeneous composition.
The view of Steins obtained by OSIRIS during the September 2008 flyby with Rosetta has provided scientists with the first detailed characterisation of this rare type of solar system body.
The results are reported in "E-type asteroid (2867) Steins as Imaged by OSIRIS on board Rosetta" by H. U. Keller, C. Barbieri, D. Koschny, P. Lamy, H. Rickman, R. Rodrigo, H. Sierks, M. F. Aâ€™Hearn, F. Angrilli, M. A. Barucci, J.-L. Bertaux, G. Cremonese, V. Da Deppo, B. Davidsson, M. De Cecco, S. Debei, S. Fornasier, M. Fulle, O. Groussin, P. J. Gutierrez, S. F. Hviid, W.-H. Ip, L. Jorda, J. Knollenberg, J. R. Kramm, E. KÃ¼hrt, M. KÃ¼ppers, L.-M. Lara, M. Lazzarin, J. Lopez Moreno, F. Marzari, H. Michalik, G. Naletto, L. Sabau, N. Thomas, K.-P. Wenzel, I. Bertini, S. Besse, F. Ferri, M. Kaasalainen, S. Lowry, S. Marchi, S. Mottola, W. Sabolo, S. E. SchrÃder, S. Spjuth, and P. Vernazza, Science, Vol. 327. no. 5962, pp. 190 â€“ 193, 8 January 2010. DOI: 10.1126/science.
Footnote: The YORP effect is a phenomenon that occurs when photons from the Sun are absorbed by a body and reradiated as infrared emission which carries off momentum as well as heat. The loss of momentum causes a change in the rotation rate of a small body such as an asteroid. The resulting high spin rate of asteroid Steins could have caused material to migrate towards the equator of the asteroid resulting in the distinctive conical shape.
better) the accuracy of UCAC3 is generally either better than, or the same as, UCAC2.
There are a number of very puzzling meteoritic events including (a) The Tunguska event. It is the only known example of a low altitude atmospheric explosion. It is also the largest recorded event. Remarkably no fragments or significant chemical traces have ever been recovered.(b) Anomalous low altitude fireballs which (in some cases) have been observed to hit the ground.
The absence of fragments is
particularly striking in these cases, but this is not the only reason they are
anomalous. On the other hand, there is strong evidence that most of our galaxy
from exotic dark material - `dark matter'. Mirror matter is one well motivated dark matter candidate, since it is dark and stable and it is required to exist if particle interactions are mirror symmetric.
If mirror matter is the dark matter, then some amount must exist in our solar system. We demonstrate that the mirror matter theory allows for a simple explanation for the puzzling meteoritic events [both (a) and (b)] if they are due to mirror matter space-bodies. A direct consequence of this explanation is that mirror matter fragments should exist in (or on) the ground at various impact sites. The properties of this potentially recoverable material depend importantly on the sign of the photon-mirror photon kinetic mixing parameter, "epsilon". We argue that the broad characteristics of the anomalous events suggests that "epsilon" is probably negative. Strategies for detecting mirror matter in the ground are discussed.
There are several papers that have been submitted and accepted, but not included in this issue for reasons of space. I urge anyone who has responsibility for drafting papers for the JDSO to do the
drafting sooner rather than later, to avoid lengthy delays until actual publication of the paper.
though, as I am currently moving all my software to a new PC, and it will take me some time before everything is up and running.
The default for stacked images will certainly be 'K', but if the observer decides that any other flag is more important in a particular case, he or she can change that flag.
Personally, I see no problem with flagging stacked images. A lot of people do excellent work using stacked images, and I see no reason why that flag will depreciate their work. In case that there is some problem with an observation, it might be useful to know that it came from a stack.
The ultimate solution would probably be the new MPC format. That would allow for multiple flags, and additional information (
observation than a simple flag.
Aborigines sometimes made up new stories when talking to researchers to fit their expectations. In particular I was told that the *real* dreamtime stories about impact craters usually don't have cosmic connections whatsoever, e.g. in one case (Wolf Creek?) the story is that a giant snake came out of the ground, causing the hole with the raised rim. There were signs at Gosses Bluff back then telling
alleged dreamtime stories that do include an impact, but in the light of that geologist's experience that may be doubtful. Actual literature references on that complex would be appreciated, actually. Image at;
Program. A newly
discovered asteroid designated 2009 VA, which is only about 7 meters in
size, passed about 2 Earth radii (14,000 km) from the Earth's surface Nov. 6 at
around This is the third-closest known (non-impacting) Earth
approach on record for a cataloged asteroid. The two closer approaches include
the 1-meter sized asteroid 2008 TS26, which passed within 6,150 km of the
Earth's surface on
General Observing Practices
The number of observers submitting astrometric observations to the MPC has risen rather dramatically in the past year. This has been accompanied by a rather worrying and troublesome increase in poor observing practice, with many sub-standard quality observations reported to the MPC.
Observers should strive to provide the best quality observations to the MPC. Poor quality observations cause the MPC significant extra work and reflect badly on the observer.
Some good practice advice follows:
* Observe each object at least three times over the course of an hour or so on each night. If the object is a known object, this can be relaxed to 30 minutes or more, as long as the motion of the object in that period is significant.
* Provide two nights of observation for "new" objects, obtaining three to six observations on each night, with at least one hour of coverage on each night.
* If you have a suspected new NEO, more than six observations may be useful if they are obtained over the course of several hours.
* In following-up interesting objects, provide good coverage of at least one hour.
* Never, under any circumstance, provide a single, isolated observation on a single night. A single observation shows no evidence of motion and there is no guarantee that the observer has not measured an image defect, a star or a variable object (star, nova or supernova).
* Stacked observations should always be marked as such and the individual images should be stacked so as to provide two observations, noting that an individual image can appear in only one stack. In very rare cases, a single stack may be all that is available: such situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Please note that a new version of Astrometrica will be released which will add the ‘K’ stack code automatically (RD)
* Observations of "new" objects in support of discovery claims should be spaced by at least one and no more than five nights.
It is hoped that self-regulation by observers will be sufficient. If this does not prove to be the case by the end of this month, we will implement additional filters to reject automatically entire batches that contain single observations or new objects with insufficient nightly coverage.
Observers are informed that batches submitted with "corrected", "correction"
It is also worth remarking that resubmission of observations or batches that were rejected by the automated AUTOACK routines do not need to be indicated as resubmissions, as the MPC has no
internal record of the original, rejected batch.
Observations of Dual-Status Objects
A number of objects are designated as both minor planets and comets. Examples include (2060) Chiron = 95P/Chiron and (4015) Wilson-Harrington = 107P/Wilson-Harrington. Astrometry of dual-status objects must be reported under the minor-planet designation, with the magnitudes reported in the asteroidal form. If observations are reported under the comet designation the AUTOACK routines
will change the designation into the minor-planet designation. If there are "nuclear" or "total" magnitudes reported on the observations this causes problems further down the processing pipeline because minor planets cannot be marked with "N" or "T" magnitudes.
Observing at Remote Sites
Observers who use multiple remote observing sites are requested to be extra vigilant in indicating where the observations were made. A number of observations have been received recently when, at the time of observation, the object was below or the sun was above the local horizon at the observing site.
Indication of Observers, Measurers and Telescope Details
In anticipation of the short-term plans for automatic MPEC preparation by the MPC, we remind observers that information given with the OBS,
‘Naming Pluto’ – a
Websites which might be of interest
French Astronomical Society (SAF) planetary observations commission – Occultations, Eclipses and Transits
ARPS Website updates
The following pages have been updated;
Observations received, Nov Dec 2009 Observations
And first the good news. The next
Occultation scan be recorded by the CCD drift scan method. How to do this can be found on John Broughton’s website which also references software, ScanTracker and ScanAnalyser, he wrote to do the job.
The direct download address is: http://www.asteroidoccultation.com/observations/LimovieAverage.zip
If you don't have C2A yet then go to http://www.astrosurf.com/c2a/english/download.htm
EUROPEAN PLANETARY SCIENCE CONGRESS NEWS RELEASE
September 14, 2009
Crater patterns on Vesta and Ceres could help pinpoint when Jupiter began to form during the evolution of the early Solar System. A study modeling the cratering history of the largest two objects in the asteroid belt, which are believed to be among the oldest in the Solar System, indicates that the type and distribution of craters would show marked changes at different stages of Jupiter's development. Results will be presented by Dr. Diego Turrini at the European Planetary Science
NASA Science News
Ninjas knew how to be stealthy: Be dark. Emit very little light. Move in the shadows between bright places. In modern warfare, though, ninjas would be sitting ducks. Their black clothes may be hard to see at night with the naked eye, but their warm bodies would be clearly visible to a soldier wearing infrared goggles.
To hunt for the "ninjas" of the cosmos - dim objects that lurk in the vast dark spaces between planets and stars - scientists are building by far the most sensitive set of wide-angle infrared goggles ever, a space telescope called the Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). WISE will scan the entire sky at infrared wavelengths, creating the most comprehensive catalog yet of dark and dim objects in the cosmos: vast dust clouds, brown dwarf stars, asteroids - even large, nearby asteroids that might pose a threat to Earth. Surveys of nearby asteroids based on visible-light telescopes could be skewed toward asteroids with more-reflective surfaces. "If there's a significant population of asteroids nearby that are very dark, they will have been missed by these previous surveys," says Edward Wright, principal investigator for WISE and a physicist at the
Websites which might be of interest
OrbitViewer – added to Links page under ‘Asteroids in general’
ARPS Website updates
January 2010 Observations
Table of contents
The rotation period of asteroid (4080) Galinskij - short paper published in the December 2009 issue of the BAA Journal
Websites which might be of interest
ARPS Website updates
What to observe page - ARPS input to 2010 BAA Handbook added
Meetings page – new meetings added
Asteroid news page – reference to (93) Minerva being a binary added
Links page – websites listed above added
What to observe page – reference to drift-scan timing added
Surprise Collision on Jupiter
Captured by Gemini Telescope. Jupiter is sporting a glowing bruise after getting
unexpectedly whacked by a small solar system object, according to astronomers
using the Gemini North telescope on
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is introducing a new Web site that will provide a centralized resource for information on near-Earth objects – those asteroids and comets that can approach Earth. The "Asteroid Watch" site also contains links for the interested public to sign up for NASA's new asteroid widget and Twitter account. The new Asteroid Watch site is online at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch .
According to a new interim report (also here) from the National Research Council, NASA’s current near-Earth object surveys will not meet the congressionally mandated goal of discovering 90 percent of all objects over 140 meters in diameter by 2020.
New research may have answered a piece to the puzzle - how big were the first planetesimals? The paper, "Asteroids Were Born Big" is available now online from the ScienceDirect website and will be available in a future edition of the journal Icarus. It is also available here.
The Late Heavy Bombardment may have been more cometary than asteroidal. Paper here.
Jupiter targeted again. Antony Wesley’s observations.
The UCAC3 catalog will be released in 2009 August
The Space Missions page includes details on all missions to asteroids.
– WISE, is a NASA-funded g the objects WISE will study are asteroids, the coolest and dimmest stars, and the most luminous galaxies.
The Asteroid News page contains details of recent discoveries;
– companion to 2002 XH91 discovered
– 1994 CC found to be a triple asteroid
See Meetings page for details on all known meetings)
Malta Symposium on Hazardous Near Earth Asteroids will
be held at the Russian Cultural and
– This is a preliminary notice to announce that European Symposium on Occultation Projects (ESOP) XXIX will be held in the City of York, UK, from Friday August 20 to
Observations from members received during July and August 2009 can be accessed here.
Websites added to the Links page
– Lunar and Planetary Institute – Terrestrial Impact Craters, Second Edition
– NASA’s JPL Asteroid Watch
‘A method of determining V magnitudes of asteroids from CCD images’ by
Version 188.8.131.52 can be downloaded from http://www.lunar-occultations.com/occult4/occult406%20update.zip
Most users of Occult will not need to download this update.
However note the 'Other changes' below. Anyone predicting Asteroid Occultations
***should*** download the update. The main change in this version concerns the
probability estimates for occultations involving slow-moving asteroids. For all
occultation predictions, there is an along-track uncertainty that is indicated
as an uncertainty in the time of the event. That uncertainty necessarily
involves a corresponding uncertainty in the rotational orientation of the
Earth. Up until now, that uncertainty in the orientation of the Earth has not
been allowed for in the prediction uncertainty - mainly because the effect is
usually very small. However when the asteroid motion across the Earth is slow,
the effect can be significant. This version adjusts the 1-sigma uncertainty lines,
and the predicted uncertainty at a location, for this effect. This correction
has immediate relevance for the occultation by Philosophia in
Other changes included are:
- on the main form, access to the 7-Timer weather prediction for your 'home' site (limited to cloud and temperature). This provides ready access to a 3-day cloud forecast.
- for lunar occultations, provided some base functionality for reporting double star observations - including the ability to copy and paste a LiMovie light curve directly into an email message from the
of 2009 Planetary Society Gene Shoemaker Near Earth
Object grants to Russell Durkee of
An updated list of Damocloids can be found here.
A procedure developed by Adam Block and Ron Wodaski describing the use of Astrometrica can be accessed here.
A minor update of OccultWatcher and the IOTA Reporting Addin has been released. It can be accessed via Help/Check for updates and following the link to update. All resolved issues are minor except for a bug where version 1.0 of the IOTA Reporting Addin would fill in incorrectly the UCAC2 star number in the excel reports in some cases.
Horizons team is fondly remembering Venetia Burney Phair, the “little girl” who
named Pluto, who died April 30 at her home in
The Astronomer reports; (6708) BOBBIEVAILE. D. Pray,
Minor Planet Bulletin issue 36-3 (2009 July-September) is available as a free PDF download
Asteroid discovery statistics can be accessed here. Amateurs are still doing quite well it would seem.
From the Minor planet Mailing List
University of Colorado, Boulder
NASA STUDY SHOWS ASTEROIDS
WASHINGTON -- A NASA-funded study indicates that an intense asteroid bombardment nearly 4 billion years ago may not have sterilized the early Earth as completely as previously thought. The asteroids, some the size of
microbial life on Earth could have found refuge in these habitats. If life had not yet emerged on Earth by the time of the bombardment, these new subsurface environments could have been the place where
terrestrial life emerged. "Even under the most extreme conditions we imposed on our model, the bombardment could not have sterilized Earth completely," said Abramov, lead author of the paper. "Our results are in line with the scientific consensus that hyperthermophilic, or 'heat-loving,
For more information about NASA's astrobiology activities, visit: http://astrobiology
If you are interested in Solar System dynamics then give Solex a try.
AIP4WIN version 2.3.0 is now available.
the joint NASA/
ESO 16/09 – Science Release. A new study published in Nature this week reveals that asteroid surfaces age and redden much faster than previously thought — in less than a million years, the blink of an eye for an asteroid. This study has finally confirmed that the solar wind is the most likely cause of very rapid space weathering in asteroids. This fundamental result will help astronomers relate the appearance of an asteroid to its actual history and identify any after effects of a catastrophic impact with another asteroid.
The STEREO spacecraft are entering the Earth’s L4 and L5 points which may hold small asteroids which could be leftovers from the collision between the Earth and a Mars sized body 4.5 billion years ago. More detail.
Peter Jenniskens led an expedition into the
For the last two years, astronomers have suspected that a nearby white dwarf star called GD 362 was "snacking" on a shredded asteroid. Now, an analysis of chemical "crumbs" in the star's atmosphere conducted by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has confirmed this suspicion. Read more and more
Websites of interest that have been added to the Links page;
‘how-to’ by Tim Spahr of the
Portal to the universe. Although not an asteroid specific site it does include asteroid info and, as they say, much, much, more!!!
Yahoo group for Project Pluto’s Find_Orb software has been set up at http://groups.
OccultWatcher 3.2 has been released and can be downloaded from http://www.hristopavlov.net/OccultWatcher/publish.htm
Philippe Deverchère has released a new version of C2A that can now draw prepoint maps for occultation events. You'll need to download and install C2A ver 2.0.31 to be able to do that. There is also a new version of the C2A Add-in for OccultWatcher. You can download this using the update process in Occult Watcher Go 'Help' -> 'Check for Updates' and then click on the update link to update the C2A Add-in. Then Go 'Add-ins' -> 'Configure Add-ins' -> 'C2A Add-in' to configure the new settings.
A new version of Occult is available and can be downloaded from IOTA website
Asteroid 7102 has been named after Neil Bone, Director of the BAA’s Meteor Section.
The April-June 2009 issue of The Minor Planet Bulletin can be download from here
The presentation on 2008 TC3 has been updated with information relating to the discovery of fragments
latest release of the Asteroid Lightcurve Database (LCDB) is now available on
the CALL site: http://www.minorpla
A new page, Video processing, describing how to subtract dark frames and make astrometric measurements from video has been added.
2009 BB77 was discovered by ARPS Director
(1) Ceres least distance from Earth for 150 years.
If you want to know how Gauss worked out the orbit of (1) Ceres then read this
Version 184.108.40.206 of Occult is now available at: http://www.lunar-occultations.com/occult4/occult405%20update.zip Just unzip the download file into the Occult 4 directory. A full list of the changes is in the file Updates.txt that will be in the Occult 4 directory.
To estimate the approximate shape of an asteroid from occultation data usually requires positive reports from several observers however Andreas Eberle has developed a method of doing so from a single observation. A report can be accessed here.
"Glo" Helin passed away in late January 2009. She was one of the
pioneers of the search for Near Earth objects (NEO’s) and established and led
the NEAT Project at JPL. The NEAT Program discovered hundreds of NEO’s, many
comets, and 64 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (
From BAA electronic
bulletin 00380 – (7102)
Neilbone. The following citation has appeared in M.P.C. 65121: (the
asteroid was) discovered in 1936 July 12 by C. Jackson at
recent article in the
Alert Program (
A team of French and Italian astronomers have devised a new method for measuring the size and shape of asteroids that are too small or too far away for traditional techniques, increasing the number of asteroids that can be measured by a factor of several hundred. This method takes advantage of the unique capabilities of ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). ESO 04/09 – Science Release
The MESSENGER spacecraft reached its orbital perihelion on 2009 Feb 9 and passed within 0.31 astronomical units (AU) of the Sun. The mission's imaging team is taking advantage of the probe's proximity to the Sun to continue their search for vulcanoids - small, rocky asteroids that have been postulated to circle the Sun in stable orbits inside the orbit of Mercury.
A paper ‘Long term impact risk for (101955) 1999 RQ36’ is available here
The Catalina Sky Survey
A new book well worth a read. ‘The Hunt for Planet X – New Worlds and the Fate of Pluto’ by Govert Schilling, published by Springer (£14.25). The book is about the discovery of the Edgeworth – Kuiper belt and strongly focuses on the human side of the story, with many personal anecdotes. Probably the first popular-level book that gives an in-depth description of the discovery of Eris (2003 UB313), covers the row over the discovery priority of Haumea (2003 EL61) and the 'demotion' of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet. Don’t forget to buy your books at Amazon via the BAA Journal website
Please note that the BAA Observers’ Workshop, Asteroids Comets and Meteors, scheduled to take place in February 2009 has been postponed
Asteroid and Dwarf Planet data for 2009 has been added to the What to Observe page.
Observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope have revealed two asteroid belts around the star Epsilon Eridani
A paper describing the YORP effect in asteroid (1620) Geographis can be found here
2008 TC3 burnt up in the
atmosphere over northern
A new, intermediate release of the Asteroid Lightcurve
Database (LCDB) maintained by
The new AstDys information system
is now at; http://hamilton.
A dedicated follower of asteroids rather than fashion but
possibly that as well !!.
turn out as NEOs. His very first one was 2002 LG3 on 2002
June 10/11 so it is an impressive statistic and is a monumental achievement
requiring dedication, etc. in the face of the English weather! To put it in
perspective, Siding Spring in
Issue 36-1 (2009 January-March) of the Minor Planet Bulletin
is available as a free download from
Asteroid families can be identified by their colour – paper here
Websites added to links page;
Impact calculator – informative and simple to use
Crni Vrh Observatory – Asteroid and Comet Observations
The UK NEO Information Centre has a new website address
On 2008 October 29
2008 SV11 – an observing project for the New Year. See ‘What to Observe/Observing projects/Asteroid 2008 SV11’ page for further information
2008 TC3 burnt up in the
atmosphere over northern
Close approaches of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids to the inner planets by Andrew Lowe. Andrew’s website has some interesting information on the use of on-line archives to discover asteroids.
Some developments in the reporting of absolute magnitudes can be found here
‘The Great Planet Debate: Science as Process’ conference can be accessed here
Observations recently received from members can be found here
Websites added to Links page;
BAA Observers’ Workshop No. 10, ‘Asteroids, Meteors and Comets’ added to Meetings page. Note date may change.
Study demonstrates how binary asteroids and asteroid moons might have formed
Dwarf planet 2005 FY9 named Makemake after the Polynesian creator of humanity and the god of fertility – IAU press release IAU0806
‘Bolides and Meteorite Falls’ International conference on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Pribram meteorite fall to be held at the Hotel Michael, Prague, Czech Republic, 2009 May 10-15
Rosetta spacecraft - asteroid (2867) Steins fly by
1st IAA Planetary Defense Conference,
Protecting Earth from Asteroids, to be
MIT solves puzzle of meteorite-asteroid link
Astronomers find an unusual new denizen of the Solar System – 2006 SQ372
Minor Planet Bulletin 35-4 (Oct-Dec 2008) is now available as a free download (Zipped PDF)
International Team of Astronomers Finds Missing Link (not early man but an asteroid, 2008 KV42, possibly originating from the Oort Cloud !!!)
Possible existence of an outer planet beyond the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt and much more by Patryk Sofia Lykawka
Two articles previously published in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association have been added to this website;
- ‘Asteroids: past,
present and future’. 2007 Presidential Address by
- ‘The H and G magnitude system for
asteroids’ based on 2007 February 24
BAA Observers’ Workshop at the Open University in
Two books have been added to the ‘Books’ section
‘Setting up a Small
‘Clyde Tombaugh, Discoverer of Planet Pluto’ by David H. Levy
Two robotic telescope sites have been added to the ‘Links’ page
Observations recently received from members can be found here
6137 named after
Orbit@home is a distributed computing project to NEA search strategies and to monitor the NEA impact hazard
List of asteroid masses is available here
Pluto and Eris are Plutoids as well as dwarf planets – readfor the full story
The Asteroid Dynamics website has a new interface under test
The latest Minor Planet Bulletin, 35-3: 2008 July-September, is available as a PDF here
Is your PC clock accurate ? – read more here
Zhongguos and Griquas – all you need to know
Largest impact crater in the solar System ? – NASA report here
Andrew Elliot looking after the ARPS stand at the 2008 Exhibition Meeting