March 2003 Asteroid/Comet News
Updated: 29 September 2003
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Newly discovered 2003 DH6 came to within about 6.2 lunar distances of Earth today. JPL says this object, which was discovered on 23 Feb. by Bruce Koehn at LONEOS, is between 44 and 99 meters/yards wide.
3 March 2003
The JPL NEO Program today added to its Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale page an explanation of "cumulative Palermo Scale":
The cumulative Palermo Scale value reflects the seriousness of the entirety of detected potential collision solutions. It is the base-10 logarithm of the sum of the individual relative risk values.
5 March 2003
Site news: On 5 March 2003 we inaugurated the A/CC Meeting Calendar for events related to minor object science — from astronomy to mission design. On the list are several meetings around the world aimed specifically at bringing together professional and amateur astronomers to share info about minor objects.
Sky and Telescope reported March 5th, "Lunar Flash Doesn't Pan Out" — "the bright blip seen by Clementine also appears in a series of telescopic plates taken decades before Stuart snapped his controversial exposure." See A/CC news links for earlier reports.
In separate March 5th news releases, ESA tells about The inauguration ceremony for the European Space Agency's first deep space ground station was held today in New Norcia, 150km north of Perth. . . the first of a series deep space ground stations that ESA intends to build around the world over the coming years to make up a European deep space network. And the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) tells more about the background of this remote, remote-controlled facility with its new 35m dish antenna. AFP has a 5 March report on SpaceDaily.
Last year a number of ESA news releases (see 17 June and 21 June) reported on New Norcia's successful test at pulling in signals from the Stardust spacecraft, which was also noted in that mission's 21 June status report. See also the ESA Tracking Station Network (ESTRACK) New Norcia Ground Station home page.
7 March 2003
8 March 2003
9 March 2003
A Novosti wire service report of 9 March: "Irkutsk scientists intend to go to taiga to study a large meteorite." It says that researchers want to reach the impact location before Spring begins in the Vitim River basin. This picks up last September's fireball story, which broke in early October.
10 March 2003
Robert Macmillan at Spacewatch confirms that the first discovery with the newly refurbished Steward Observatory 0.9m telescope is NEO 2003 EN16, found on 8 March and announced on the 10th in MPEC 2003-E38. The next day, another NEO discovered with this telescope, 2003 EZ16, was announced in MPEC 2003-E41.
12 March 2003
A bit of a dry spell in comet discoveries was broken on the 12. MPEC 2003-E47 announced P/2003 CP7 (LINEAR-NEAT), with observations reported going back to February 1st at LINEAR and March 10th at NEAT's Palomar telescope, with some in between at LONEOS. P/2003 CP7 lives its life between Mars and Jupiter, calculated to come to perihelion on the 29th of next month at 3.018 AU — nearly twice the average distance of Mars from the Sun. At its furthest reach of 5.017 AU, CP7 approaches Jupiter's orbit.
15 March 2003
Sky & Telescope had an article telling how 4 Vesta was coming into good view, even naked-eye visible around March 27th for those with good seeing conditions. There is a nice piece 15 March on VOANews.com about NEO observer Ron Dyvig and his Badlands Observatory in South Dakota, where the town put an on/off switch on his nearest streetlight.
17 March 2003
Coming out of the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), underway 17-21 March near Houston, Texas, is a University of Arizona news release today about how planetary scientist H. Jay Melosh says an asteroid smaller than a kilometer wide would not cause catastrophic tsunami situations from an ocean impact. See also David Morrison's report posted 18 March about a 16 March tsunami hazard workshop. Astronomy.com had a 19 March article. In the edition of Cambridge Conference Correspondence (CCC) dated 14 March, Ed Grondine reports about the number of papers scheduled for presentation at the conference about improving crater counts and counting methods.
18 March 2003
The Minor Planet Center on 18 March updated its Discovery Circumstances page with 2,373 new asteroid numberings, now totalling 58,092. There are also 140 new namings from a diverse array of discoverers, from 6688 Donmccarthy (1981 ER17), discovered at Siding Spring by Schelte J. Bus, to 51895 Biblialexa (2001 QX33), discovered at Ondrejov Observatory by Petr Pravec and Peter Kusnirak. The latter is now the highest numbered object with a name. A sampling of other namings: 12818 Tomhanks (1996 GU8), 12820 Robinwilliams (1996 JN6), 15631 Dellorusso (2000 HT57), 16452 Goldfinger (1989 SE8), and 26887 Tokyogiants (1994 TO15).
20 March 2003
Sky and Telescope in a 20 March article, "Too Few Lunar Meteorites," tells of puzzlement over why more meteorites have been found from Mars than the Moon.
24 March 2003
The second amateur-discovered NEO of 2003 was announced on 24 March in MPEC 2003-F28. 2003 FG was found yesterday by Desert Eagle Observatory, which a month ago picked up the first of the year, 2003 DN4.
A 24 March Science@NASA article on "Space Station Astrophotography" has an interesting photograph of auroras and the Manicouagan impact crater in Canada.
26 March 2003
A fireball was seen from Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio around local midnight 26-27 March, with numerous fragments falling over the southern Chicago area. An early estimate of the object's pre-entry width is one to two meters/yards. The University of Chicago put out a news release yesterday, "Meteorites shower Chicago's south suburbs." Space.com has an article today, "Meteor Showers Rocks on Midwestern Homes," and CNN today is carrying yesterday's AP wire story. Thanks to Bob Johnston for reporting a link to an article today in the Northwest Indiana Times, "Meteor showers rubble onto south suburbs."
29 March 2003
The Daily Orbit Update MPEC for the 30th reported that NEO 1999 WK11 had been found on Siding Spring plates from 30 Sept. and 10 Oct. 1980. This object, which is on the order of a kilometer in diameter, was initially observed during only a two-week period in December 1999, but was picked up again last November.
30 March 2003
MPEC 2003-F61 on 30 March announced 2003 FY6, which has an eccentric orbit of low inclination that lies mostly inside Earth's orbit, with perihelion at 0.307 (inside Mercury's orbit) and aphelion at 1.155 AU. This object was discovered on 29 March by Michael Van Ness at LONEOS and was followed up by nine other observatories through this morning.
Fast rotator mostly inside Earth's Orbit
Jure Skvarc at Crni Vrh Observatory in Slovenia has bagged a very interesting NEO, 2003 EM1, announced at 3:15pm Eastern Time today in MPEC 2003-E28 with this copyrighted note: "The above nominal orbital elements indicate that the object passed 0.017 AU from the earth and 0.016 AU from the moon on 1974 Mar. 7." (A distance of 0.016 to 0.017 AU is a bit more than six times the distance between Earth and Moon.)
We tracked 2003 EM1 from Mallorca last night and it obviously had a high light variation. I sent our observations to Alan W. Harris and he did a quick examination and found a preliminary period of 1.86 minutes.Alan W. Harris's light curve from those 50 frames is available here, posted with permission. The orbit diagram above is a composite from the JPL Orbit Viewer for 2003 EM1.
Observations from 6-7 March from Desert Moon Observatory were sent to Alan W. Harris, who overlaid them with the 6 March Mallorca observations. He says, "It all hangs together quite well." See the new chart, with thanks to Dr. Harris for his help with making this information available here.
An incomplete list of observatories contributing 2003 EM1 photometric (light variation) or astrometric (position) observations includes Begues, Desert Eagle, Pla D'Arguines, Reedy Creek (Australia), and Wise.
We had an exchange of E-mails with 2003 EM1's discoverer, Jure Skvarc at Crni Vrh, about how to pronounce his observatory's name in English, and came up with cherny vruh. It means "Black Peak."
SIRTF arrives for launch
A NASA/KSC news release on 6 March reported that the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) had arrived at the Kennedy Space Center for a launch scheduled for early on April 15th. Other related news releases came 13 March from Cornell and 25 March from JPL. Space.com had an article on 11 March
Although there was no official announcement, New Scientist and BBC reported on 7 March that the decision has been made (or, is "almost certain" to be made) to retarget the ESA Rosetta mission to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, with a launch in February 2004 and rendezvous around 2014. As A/CC noted on 19 Feb., Daniel Fischer in his Cosmic Mirror issue #249 reported that a Rosetta-related 67P observing campaign had already begun ahead of a decision to retarget.
Shuttle meteor risk assessment
The 10 March edition of Cambridge Conference Correspondence carries the text of a Toronto Star article of 9 March about NASA contracting with the University of Western Ontario (UWO) to report on what the odds were that the Shuttle Columbia could have been hit with a meteor large enough to initiate the catastrophy. The answer is "one in 330," based on observation by the UWO Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR), which was in operation at the time. There seems to be no Web site with more info about this instrument, but the abstract PDF for a paper presented at last year's Asteroid, Comets, Meteors (ACM) meeting says that it has been operating since January 2002, is fully automated, and "detects most major [meteor] streams and a variety of smaller minor streams." A few meteors have been detected traveling "above the interstellar velocity limit."
Two Micron All-Sky Survey new products
The University of Massachusetts put out a news release 26 March telling that new products are available from the Two Micron All-Sky Survey (2MASS), an infrared survey that covers nearly 100% of the sky. To better understand what is actually being released and when, and how to get access to it, see the 25 March Data Release announcement from Caltech Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, a 2MASS partner. For older data releases related to minor objects, see also the 2MASS Asteroid and Comet Catalogs page.
Risk concerns removed during March 2003