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The Asteroid/Comet Connection's news journal about asteroids, comets & meteors   –   23-31 July 2005

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[ 5 August 2005 news ]


31 July 2005 - Sunday  

Risk monitoring:  Early today UT, still Saturday evening in Pasadena, MPEC 2005-O46 announced 2005 OU2, which JPL soon posted with a single 2009 impact solution. It was discovered by the Siding Spring Survey in Australia on Friday and confirmed yesterday morning by Farpoint Observatory in Kansas, and is estimated by JPL at roughly 630 meters wide.
      Today's Daily Orbit Update (DOU) MPEC reports continued tracking of 2005 NZ6 by North Ryde Observatory in Australia yesterday, and today NEODyS slightly, and JPL decidedly, lowered their overall risk ratings for this kilometer-size threat.
      Today JPL and NEODyS posted new risk assessments for 99942 Apophis (2004 MN4), their first incorporating observations reported in Friday's DOU (see news below). JPL cut down to four from nine impact solutions with little other change, while NEODyS, which cut its count from 21 to 17, very slightly raised risk ratings.



30 July 2005 - Saturday

2003 UB313 observed from 
Farpoint Obs. 30 July 2005
2003 UB313 observed from SoTIE 30 July 
by Gianluca Masi & Roger Wilcox.

Distant object:  Received today are these images of the newly announced 2003 UB313, believed to be definitely larger than Pluto (see news below). From Gary Hug comes "a two minute integration taken around 400 AM July 30th CDST" at Farpoint Observatory in Kansas using the 0.7m Tombaugh telescope. That instrument is named for Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, and includes parts of a telescope he once refurbished and used (news thread).
      And from Gianluca Masi is an image made with Roger Wilcox using the remotely operated 0.36m Southern TIE (SoTIE) in Chile. It was made at about 0500 UT this morning. Masi also has an animated 79Kb GIF that shows movement over a span of three and a half hours.

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports observation of 2005 NZ6 from North Ryde Observatory in Australia yesterday. And NEODyS and JPL today slightly lowered their overall risk ratings for this object, which is estimated by JPL at roughly 1.16 km. in diameter.



29 July 2005 - Friday  

Distant objects:  Marco Langbroek alerted A/CC overnight that the largest object since Pluto had been discovered by the Spanish team of Jose Luis Ortiz et. al. See MPEC 2005-O36 announcing 2003 EL61 (H=0.4), and news today at BBC and New Scientist.
      An article today at Nature confirms speculation that the professional American team of Chad Trujillo et. al, which made several other recent distant large discoveries, had independently found this object, but was withholding information from the IAU until making their announcement at a scientific meeting more than a month from now (see abstract). What is truly new is the report that a satellite has been discovered by the team, and that allows them to better estimate the size of 2003 EL61 as less than that of Pluto.
      Official discovery credit goes to those who first report astrometry and, subsequent to today's earlier news, the Trujillo team reported, and the Minor Planet Center published, astrometry for two more objects with even brighter absolute magnitudes, 2005 FY9 at H=0.1 (MPEC 2005-O42) and 2003 UB313 at H=-1.1 (MPEC 2005-O41). 2003 UB313 seems clearly to be larger than Pluto (H=-0.7), yet orbits the Sun further out and at an astounding 44.2° to the ecliptic. See news reports today at BBC and

Risk monitoring:  In these six days since the last wrap-up here of risk monitoring news, there is nothing to report from Sunday the 24th, but there has been something every day since. For starters, NEODyS and JPL on the 28th removed their last impact solutions for 2005 NB7 after it was reported on Monday and Thursday from Farpoint Observatory in Kansas from early on the 25th and 28th.
      North Ryde Observatory in New South Wales (NSW) rode herd on the kilometer-plus 2005 NZ6 with observations reported Tuesday, yesterday, and today from the 25th, 27th, and 28th. The Siding Spring Survey in NSW also observed it, reported today from yesterday. The net result in analysis over the period was for NEODyS and JPL to raise their overall risk ratings.
      Today's Daily Orbit Update (DOU) MPEC reported that 99942 Apophis (2004 MN4) was observed early on 9-11 July by the discovering team of David Tholen and Fabrizio Bernardi in Hawaii and Roy Tucker at the 90" Bok telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona. Tucker told A/CC that "Although the solar elongation was only 47 degrees, and we were observing at high air masses, the seeing was good and we got very solid detections. On the third night, the 18% moon was only seven degrees away but produced little interference."
      This could be the last that this departing dangerous object will be reported optically until early 2007, but Arecibo now has it scheduled for final radar observation. Ahead of that, Arecibo observations from 29 and 30 January, part of those reported in the DOU of February 4th, were restated in the DOU of July 27th.
      NEODyS updated on that restated radar data, but at last check early on the 30th UTC, neither risk monitor had yet incorporated the new optical data into a public risk assessment for Apophis.



23 July 2005 - Saturday

Numbers & names:  The Minor Planet Center updated its minor planet Discovery Circumstances and comet numbers pages on July 19th with 104 new minor planet namings and one comet numbering. 168P/Hergenrother is the comet P/1998 W2 recovered this year as P/2005 N2 (see July 6th comet news).
      Most prominent of the new namings is 99942 Apophis, for the object originally designated 2004 MN4. It is now the highest numbered object with a name, and also the only object with impact solutions that has a name or number. A/CC hasn't seen the citation, but one can presume that the name comes not from an s-f TV show character or a rock band, but rather the Greek name for the Egyption god or demon of darkness and destruction (see references here and here). With this naming comes a restatement of discovery credit, from D.J. Tholen alone to R.A. Tucker, Tholen, and F. Bernardi.
      Other namings were from 5368 Vitagliano (1984 SW5) to 96205 Ararat (1992 ST16) and include 7158 IRTF (1981 ES8), 11788 Nauchnyj (1977 QN2), 17898 Scottsheppard (1999 FB19), and 36800 Katarinawitt (2000 SF45). One name was changed, 6050 Miwablock from Moritablock.
      The most recent previous numberings and namings were on June 24th.

Risk monitoring:  In risk monitoring news since Sunday, there is nothing to report from Monday, Wednesday, or today. The kilometer-plus 2005 NZ6 was reported on Tuesday the 19th from Reedy Creek Observatory in Queensland, from the day before, and was reported on Thursday from UKAPP in Northern Ireland working with the Faulkes Telescope North in Hawaii a day earlier. The net change in risk assessments was that NEODyS cut from 10 to 2 impact solutions but raised its overall risk ratings, while JPL cut from 9 to 2 solutions and slightly lowered its ratings.
      Also on the 19th, it was announced that 99942 2004 MN4 had been named 99942 Apophis (see news above). This dangerous object, which has now gone out of view for ground-based optical telescopes, is scheduled for radar observation from Arecibo during 7-8 August. It will be back in view in early 2007.
      The one other item from this six-day period, which was marked by observing interference from the full Moon, was yesterday's report that Desert Moon Observatory in New Mexico caught 2005 NB7 the morning before, adding six days to what had been a ten-day observing arc. And both risk monitors cut their differing solution sets to a count of five and lowered their risk assessments for this object, which appears to be rougly half the size of 2005 NZ6.

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