Wednesday17 March 200411:31pm MST2004-03-18 UTC 0631 back top next  

The Asteroid/Comet Connection's
daily news journal about
asteroids, comets, and meteors


Today's issue status: done
yesterdayMarchtomorrowIndex

Cover: A slow period in NEO discovery has definitely ended. Among many announcements since Monday is 2004 FA, discovered by Miwa Block with the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope in Arizona yesterday morning. It was confirmed from five other sites including by Franceso Manca and Augusto Testa at Sormano Observatory in Italy, who provided this imagery from last night. 2004 FA was announced in MPEC 2004-F10 with absolute magnitude (brightness) H=23.4, which converts very roughly to 70 meters/yards wide, and puts closest approach at just over 7 lunar distances 26-27 March.

Intruder spotted – part 1/3 Major News for 17 March 2004 back top next  
Intruder spotted

Just as A/CC was closing up the day's news, a little after 5pm MST (0000 UTC), word came that near-Earth object observers with night skies were swinging their telescopes around to watch the progess of the closest-ever observed flyby of an asteroid. All calculations are that there is NO danger of impact. And, even if there was a possibility, this object is so small it probably would self-destruct very high in the atmosphere.

MPEC 2004-F24 issued at 2355 on March 17th UT announces 2004 FH and shows without comment that this object will fly past Earth at 0.0004 AU tomorrow night — 15.6% of the distance to the Moon, or a bit more than 59,800 km. (37,150 miles). Based on a rough estimate from its brightness, it is tiny — on the order of 25 meters/yards wide.

The previously closest recorded flyby, according to the IAU Minor Planet Center's Closest Approaches page, was at 0.00056 AU = 84,000 km. = 52,000 miles by 2003 SQ222 last September 27th.

more about 2004 FH >>

2004 FH caught on 17 March 2004 by Felix Hormuth 
at Starkenburg Observatory
Above: Felix Hormuth at Starkenburg Observatory in Germany caught 2004 FH late today, March 17th. Stars appear as streaks.

Right: Animation by Pasquale Tricarico using ORSA shows how 2004 FH is perturbed as its orbit crosses Earth's path.
2004 FH Earth-Moon flyby 
animation by Pasquale Tricarico
Intruder spotted – part 2/3 Major News for 17 March 2004 back top next  

<< continued from part 1

The MPEC shows that 2004 FH was discovered by LINEAR in New Mexico at 0817:37 UT Tuesday morning the 16th, and tracked until 0922:36. LINEAR picked it up again Wednesday morning, and Wednesday night confirmation came first from KLENOT in the Czech Republic, then Felix Hormuth at Starkenburg Observatory in Germany (see image above), and finally by Modra Observatory in Slovakia with its last observation at 2312:03 tonight. The MPEC was issued 43 minutes later.

Tim Spahr, MPC NEO Technical Specialist, explained the sequence to the Minor Planet Mailing list (MPML) soon after the MPEC was issued:

[2004 FH] was posted as an ONS [one-night sighting] last night on the NEOCP [NEO Confirmation page, as AM34575]. Nobody could find it. I found it in LINEAR's routine NEO submissions this afternoon, made the link, updated the orbit, and several groups followed-up on it within minutes of the update. The system did in fact work very well in this case! 
Uncertainty map for 2004 FH first night 
provided by Peter Birtwhistle

Peter Birtwhistle tells A/CC: I went for 2004 FH (as AM34575) when it first went up on the NEOCP after the first night of LINEAR observations, and covered the entire 45' uncertainty area with some extra during March 17 0055-0143 UT. It was unfortunately 23' further S.E. from the most easterly point of the uncertainty map during that time, and just 3' outside my field of view. (See map above.)

Felix Hormuth told A/CC about Wednesday night, The confirmation was rather easy, as I caught this

<< part 1 | 2004 FH part 3/3 >>

Intruder spotted – part 3/3 Major News for 17 March 2004 back top next  

<< continued from part 2

object at about 20 arcsec/min, which is not very fast at 15.2mag, even for our quite small telescope here in Heppenheim. Maybe having initials "FH" helped. See his imagery above.

Thanks to the observers who alerted A/CC about an event-in-progress, to Felix Hormuth for his quick reply with images from the confirmation process, even though he was ready to leave the observatory for home, and to Pasquale Tricarico who responded immediately to a request for illustrations. More of their work will probably appear in A/CC's Thursday news.

In preparing illustrations of the 2004 FH flyby (see animation above), Pasquale Tricarico used his ORSA software and incorporated the latest orbital elements from the MPC. ORSA's real job is to produce numbers, and here they are. The closest approach to Earth will be at 18.895 March, about 2130 UTC (4:30pm EST) Thursday. At that point, the center-to-center separation distance will be 0.00035 AU = 0.1362 LD (lunar distance) = 8.2 ER (Earth radii) with a relative

velocity of 7.93 km./sec. Because of Earth's gravitational influence, 2004 FH's minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) will evolve from having been 7.75 Earth radii on March 17th to 6.67 ER on the 21st. This of course will all be subject to change as more observations come in. And it will be a challenging, speeding target Thursday night.

The latest news is that, Wednesday evening in Pasadena, JPL has now posted 2004 FH with 19 low-rated impact solutions that begin with the year 2031. See below.


Continued:  This developing story continues on March 18th. For the record, A/CC was the first to break the 2004 FH story, less than an hour after the announcement MPEC was issued, going up with our initial report at 5:53pm MST, which is 7:53 EST on Wednesday, March 17th, 0053 on the 18th UTC. Details, an image, and illustrations were progressively added up through 11:31pm MST.

News briefs – part 1/2 Major News for 17 March 2004 back top next  
News briefs

Namings:  A Korea Times article yesterday tells that asteroids discovered by Jeon Young-beom and Lee Byung-chol "during 2000 to 2002 at the Bohyunsan Optical Astronomy Observatory" will be named in honor of 14th- to 16th-century scientists Choe Mu-seon, Yi Cheon, Jang Yeong-sil, Yi Sun-ji, and Heo Jun.

The BBC has an article from yesterday, "How do planets get their names?" It tells of a brewing controversy involving the object properly designated as 2003 VB12 and unofficially named "Sedna":

Brian Marsden, an astronomer and secretary of the IAU's naming board, told one US newspaper it was a violation of protocol to announce a name and assume it would be accepted. He said: "Other members of the committee might vote against it because the name was brought forward in this manner." 

Dark skies:  The Central Western Daily reports today about the New South Wales state government 200-km. "dark skies region" around Siding Spring Observatory (news below). And the Fort Bend Herald-Coaster has a long piece about the issue in that Texas county.

Comet webcast:  JPL has announced that Stardust Project Manager Tom Duxbury will give two one-hour webcast lectures on "The First Comet Sample Return" at 7pm PST Thursday and Friday (March 18th and 19th) — that's 0300 Friday and Saturday UTC.

New Horizons:  The New Horizons mission to Pluto and beyond has an item dated yesterday about its ultraviolet spectrometer. This instrument named "Alice" has as its primary purpose studying the atmosphere of Pluto, but "will also be used to search for an atmosphere around Pluto's moon, Charon, as well as the Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) New Horizons hopes to fly by after Pluto-Charon."

But will Pluto still be a planet when the New Horizons mission arrives? Space.com reports today, "Pluto's Planet Status could be Jeopardized by Sedna Discovery." BBC also has a report on this issue today, "'New planet' forces rethink."

more news briefs >>

News briefs – part 2/2 Major News for 17 March 2004 back top next  

<< continued from part 1

Readings:  The Paragould Daily Press told yesterday about an effort to bring the Paragould meteorite back to near where it fell. It belongs to the Field Museum in Chicago but has resided at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (see an A/CC report). Although they don't have a place to put it, some community members would like it back. Says one, "If God would've wanted that thing in Fayetteville, he would've landed it there."

The Cornell Daily Sun has an article today about the 25m Cornell/Caltech sub-millimeter telescope planned to become operational in 2012 in Chile's high-and-dry Atacama Desert. See A/CC's report last week about uses for this kind of far-infrared radiometry in minor object science.

JPL has a news release from yesterday, "William H. Pickering, Former Director of JPL, Dies." It was under Pickering's leadership that Jet Propulsion Laboratory work was moved from under the military into the fold of the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and began pioneering the

robotic exploration of the Solar System with the Ranger and Surveyer lunar and Mariner planetary missions. He was originally from New Zealand, and see a Stuff.co.nz article there today about "Leading space pioneer Sir William Pickering dies."

IEO 2003 CP20 recovery:  MPEC 2004-F23 today announces the recovery of the first and only known inside-Earth object (IEO), 2003 CP20 [link|alt]. This object, which lives entirely within the orbit of Earth, was last reported seen on May 2nd last year with an observing arc of just over 80 days. Erich Meyer picked it up on the 14th and again tonight at Linz Observatory in Austria.

Risk monitoring - part 1/1 Major News for 17 March 2004 back top next  
Risk monitoring 17 March

The Wednesday Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports prediscovery observation of the large NEO 2004 EW9 by LONEOS in Arizona on January 29th, and observing yesterday by Junk Bond Observatory (aka Sierra Vista) in Arizona, by the Siding Spring Survey in Australia, and by KLENOT in the Czech Republic. Today JPL removed its one impact solution for this object.

The Siding Spring Survey consists of Rob McNaught, who often works with Gordon Garradd. In recent years they have been most visible from the results of their very effective but only occasional observing runs on the Australian National University 1.0m Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales. With technical support from the Catalina Sky Survey, which is also the conduit for NASA funding, they have been working since 2002 to modernize the 0.5m Uppsala Schmidt telescope in order to once again have routine NEO tracking in the southern hemisphere. This effort has also been called the Catalina Sky Survey South and the Southern Hemisphere Survey.

Summary Risk Table - sources checked at 0626 UTC, 18 Mar

Object

Assessment

Years

VI
PS
cum
PS
max
T
S
Arc 
days
 2004 FHJPL 3/182031-209919-5.68-6.0901.621
 2004 EW9JPL 3/17R E M O V E D
VI = count of "virtual impactors" (impact solutions)
See A/CC's Consolidated Risk Tables for more and maybe
  newer details, and check the monitors' links for latest info.
Note that only objects recently in view are shown here.


Late update:  JPL has posted 2004 FH. See above for information about this tiny object that is presently making the deepest intrusion through the Earth-Moon system ever observed.

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