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Major News About Minor Objects


31
Oct.
2003

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31 October 2003 - Friday
Readings:  The Independent of South Africa has an article today, "Czech stargazers check out asteroid's fly-by," telling about Klet Observatory's discovery of tiny 2003 UT55. And the observatory has now posted an animation of KLENOT's discovery images. For more about 2003 UT55, see below.
      The Planetary Society has an article dated yesterday, "Scientists Find an 'Asteroid' is Apollo 12 Debris." This is a very interesting and nicely done detective story about the object designated J002E3. The headline is ironic, however, since the article goes to great length to explain that the Apollo 12 identification is not yet 100% established, and criticizes "some media" for when, last Fall, their "headlines turned belief into fact, reporting that the 'asteroid' was Apollo 12 debris." Beyond that picky point (editors, not writers, control headlines), NEO observers will be amazed to learn how well their observing work is going:
Virtually every object that dares venture near our planetary airspace is detected, analyzed, and scrutinized with multiple methods, almost always from multiple observatories. 
A more realistic appraisal appeared in Space.com's October 6th report about tiny 2003 SQ222, which made the closest known Earth flyby at less than a quarter of the distance between Earth and Moon:
About 3,000 [asteroids as big or larger than 2003 SQ222] pass closer than the Moon every year but are not detected, according to Alan Harris of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Perhaps 100 of them come closer than 2003 SQ222. 
For more about J002E3, see A/CC's news links.
Risk monitoring (updated 2x) – The Friday Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) carries observations of 2003 TH2, 2003 UO12, and 2003 UQ25 from yesterday morning, all from Powell Observatory in Kansas. Today NEODyS made small changes in its risk assessments for these three objects, which are all low rated.
      Updated:  JPL has now posted revised assessments for the three objects that have new observations today, making small changes in risk ratings for 2003 UO12 and 2003 UQ25. Yesterday JPL and NEODyS both had impact solutions for 2003 TH2 in the years 2061 and 2065, and today they each cut down to one of those two low-rated solutions, but have split on which one.
      JPL today added 2003 UX26 to its Current Risks page with one very low rated solution beyond the NEODyS time horizon. This is another Tunguska-class object, too small to be officially categorized as "potentially hazardous." It was announced on October 28th (see below) and was reported in today's DOU with observations from discoverer LINEAR in New Mexico from yesterday morning.

30
Oct.
2003

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30 October 2003 - Thursday
PHO news:  When first announced (see below), 2003 UW29 wasn't categorized as a potentially hazardous object (PHO), but, with today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reporting new observations from yesterday morning from LINEAR, the orbit calculation has changed, and with that comes PHO status. Like 2003 UX34, another small object with a very eccentric but lowly inclined orbit announced the same day (and today posted by JPL with an impact solution), 2003 UW29 has MOIDs < 0.05 AU with all four inner planets, according to Lowell Observatory's Orbit intersections page. Unlike UX34, which goes out of view immediately, UW29 has been posted by the European Spaceguard Central Node Priority List at level 2 "Necessary," noting that it will be in view for most observers until December 7th.
      See below for an update to today's first report about tiny 2003 UT55.
Bits & pieces:  More aurora are expected at lower latitudes tonight according to a Sky & Telescope article todaycookies required: "Europe may have the best chance of a show, but North America could be favored too. The time to begin watching is immediately after dark." See also a Harvard-Smithsonian news release about how an improbable "second gigantic solar flare has erupted, sending another coronal mass ejection directly towards Earth."
      The Plainview, Texas Daily Herald has an article from yesterday, "Celestial bounty comes with touch of star dust," about Matt Morgan and Gary Curtiss — "They're real life, bona fide, in-the-flesh meteorite hunters, and they were in the area this week seeking treasures billions of years old." Curtiss is quoted as saying that the west Texas cotton fields are "just loaded with meteorite finds," and Morgan comments that "the Plainview shower — believed to have fallen in the early 1800s — extends through Hale Center all the way to Cotton Center some 15 miles away."
      The Philadelphia Enquirer has an article from October 26th, "The price of preparation for a doomsday scenario," repeated today at the State College, Penn. Centre Daily as, "Time to think about defending Earth from asteroids, scientists say." The piece quotes NASA/Langley aerospace engineer Dan Mazanek as saying, "We need to practice moving comets and asteroids."
Fire news:  Astronomy.com has an article today, "California Fires Bother Astronomers but Don't Harm Observatories." It refers to Mt. Wilson, Table Mountain, and Palomar observatories, noting that poor seeing and protecting telescopes from smoke particulates has interrupted or shut down observing. Among amateur astronomers, the article reports that "fires came hundreds of yards from [Bob] Stephens's residence and [his Santana Observatory] late last week and have driven other [Riverside Astronomical Society] members from their homes. . .  Smoke has also prevented Stephens from conducting photometry work on an asteroid he has been studying."
      See also A/CC's fire report yesterday below.
Risk monitoring:  Today JPL added 2003 UX34 to its Current Impact Risks page. For more info about this small object, see below. A triplet of UX34 observations is reported in today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) from the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope from yesterday morning. The European Spaceguard Central Node Priority List has this object at "Urgent," noting that it will go out of view today for most observers.
      The DOU has observations of 2003 TH2 from this morning from Great Shefford Observatory in England, and also a triplet from the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope from October 22nd. Today NEODyS and JPL each have two low-rated impact solutions left for this small object, one in 2045 and another in 2061.
      2003 UO12 observations from yesterday morning are reported from the Whipple Observatory 1.2m and Spacewatch 1.8m telescopes. Today both monitors very slightly raised low risk ratings for their single impact solutions for this tiny object.
      The Spacewatch 1.8m also 2003 UQ25 early yesterday, and today one risk monitor very slightly lowered, and the other very slightly raised, low risk ratings for their single solutions for this tiny object
NEO news (updated) – The KLENOT 1.06m telescope in the Czech Republic has a very interesting discovery announced overnight. 2003 UT55 is a tiny object that Kyle Smalley notes in MPEC 2003-U96 "passed 0.0074 AU from the earth on Oct. 27.3 UT." That's about 2.9 lunar distances away and the 48th closest recorded flyby, according to the Minor Planet Center's Closest Approaches page. Nice work for something with an absolute magnitude (H=26.8) that translates into a best-guess width of roughly 15 meters/yards.
      2003 UT55 was discovered last Sunday night, in an image from 2242 UT and located in images going back 12 minutes. KLENOT tracked it at intervals for two and a half hours, until 0113. Then Great Shefford Observatory in England (with a 0.3m telescope) picked it up at 0125 and followed it for another 23 minutes. And there the trail ends Monday morning, with UT55 diving into the southern sky, where it will soon drop from view.
Update:  The Sormano Observatory Small Asteroids (SAEL) list today added 2003 UT55, putting its Earth minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) at 0.0072 AU.
      About Great Shefford Observatory's participation, Peter Birtwhistle told A/CC today: All the positions I got were from a sequence of relatively long exposures taken to try and locate the object (as it obviously was still unconfirmed at that time) and by the time I'd got the search images it had disappeared behind a line of trees in the southwest, so I couldn't take any exposures short enough to get good precise positions.

29
Oct.
2003

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29 October 2003 - Wednesday
Fire news:  Weather is reported today to have turned to help battle southern California wildfires, although firefighters remain overwhelmed. Palomar Observatory, which is located in northern San Diego County northeast of the Paradise Fire, put out a news release today (138Kb PDF file), "Palomar Observatory expected to weather fire storm." It reports that "Currently fires are slowly approaching the area of Palomar Mountain. . .  Smoke and ash from the fires have put a temporary end to the Observatory's nightly observations, but the Observatory itself is not threatened." It goes on to tell how well prepared the facility is if fire does become a threat.
      Table Mountain Observatory, northwest of Wrightwood in San Bernardino County, is near the Grand Prix fire. The fire status today doesn't mention Table Mountain or the observatory, but states that "At this time there is not even a hint of a need to evacuate Wrightwood," which situation maps put between Table Mountain and the fire.
      No fires are reported anywhere near Mt. Wilson or the close-by Stony Ridge Observatory, north of Pasadena. However, the area has been closed to the public for recreational use, and Mt. Wilson closed to visitors, "due to extreme fire danger."
Bits & pieces:  SpaceWeather.com is reporting that "A severe geomagnetic storm is in progress. Sky watchers at all latitudes should be alert for auroras after local nightfall."
Earlier reporting:  The prediction of aurora for tonight at lower latitudes has been called off after a huge solar magnetic storm arrived sooner than expected, hitting at about 0630 UTC this morning, resulting in aurora seen as far south as Arizona and Missouri. SpaceWeather.com has an image gallery. Brian Skiff told the the Minor Planet Mailing list (MPMLcookies required) at 0920 of "two hours of action," and "We're getting a pretty good red-pink glow low in the north from Anderson Mesa outside Flagstaff AZ."
      Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports Arecibo radar observations from October 25th of 2003 TL4 (info below) and 2003 UC20 yesterday (info below). Among optical observations of interesting objects mentioned in A/CC news from the last two days, 2003 UR25 is still missing and there are no reports of newly discovered 2003 UW29, but 2003 UX26 was picked up yesterday by LINEAR and by NEAT's Hawaiian telescope, and the MPC Last Observation page shows that 2003 UX34 was caught this morning with the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope.
      The Times of India has a brief item today, "Close encounter with asteroid on Nov 1," reporting the coming occultation of a star by Main Belt asteroid 129 Antigone. The information is attributed to the Association of Hyderabad Amateur Astronomers, and notes that the asteroid will be "at a distance equal to thrice the distance between the Earth and sun."
Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC carries observations of 2003 UQ25 from early yesterday from the Whipple Observatory 1.2m telescope on Mt. Hopkins and the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope on Kitt Peak, both in Arizona. Today NEODyS and JPL cut their risk assessments for this small object down to one low-rated impact solution in 2074.
      The Minor Planet Center's Last Observation page is showing that the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope caught 2003 UO12 this morning.

28
Oct.
2003

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28 October 2003 - Tuesday
Bits & pieces (expanded 2x & updated) – A huge solar magnetic storm is on its way and could bring aurora to mid-latitudes tonight and especially tomorrow night, even possibly in the southern U.S. For more info, see SpaceWeather.com and a Harvard-Smithsonian news release today. You may also find interesting the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Environment Center (SEC) Auroral Activity page (note that "The blue color does not signify greater auroral activity than the surrounding black color," and that the red arrow is pointing toward the meridian where it was noon at the time of observation).
      The newest Tunguska-class object is 2003 UX26, estimated to be on the order of 45 meters/yards wide. It was discovered by LINEAR early on October 25th and announced yesterday in MPEC 2003-U77. Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports further observations from LINEAR yesterday, and Great Shefford Observatory caught it this morning.
      2003 UW29 is an odd near-Earth object that was announced overnight in MPEC 2003-U79. It has a very eccentric Earth-crossing orbit and low inclination (i=3.4°), but isn't categorized as potentially hazardous. From its brightness, UW29's size is roughly estimated at 200 to 450 meters/yards wide. It was discovered early Saturday by LINEAR, which caught it again yesterday morning, and was followed this morning by Ondrejov Observatory, which reported ten positions spanning just over 12 minutes. Update:  2003 UW29 has since had a rather different orbit calculated, still low in inclination and now categorized as potentially hazardous.
      Another highly eccentric object (e=0.6955) of the same magnitude (H=20.6) and inclination was subsequently announced today in MPEC 2003-U93, and this object is categorized as potentially hazardous. 2003 UX34 was discovered Sunday morning with the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope and followed up by discoverer Anne Descour yesterday and this morning along with Jim Young at JPL's Table Mountain Observatory.
      SpaceDaily is carrying an Agence France-Presse (AFP) story today with the headline, "Worried asteroid-watchers wrangle over alert system." It appears to be an attempt to summarize reports and messages published in Cambridge Conference Correspondence in recent weeks concerning impact risk reporting and the general news media.
Risk monitoring:  The Tuesday Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) carries observations of 2003 TH2 from this morning from Great Shefford Observatory in England, and from Crni Vrh Observatory in Slovenia from Sunday Morning. Today both risk monitors slightly lowered their overall risk assessments for this object.
      The DOU has a triplet of 2003 UO12 observations from early yesterday from the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope in Arizona, and today JPL and NEODyS slightly raised their risk ratings for the one impact solution each is carrying for this low-rated small object.
      Not in today's DOU is observation of 2003 UQ25 that the Minor Planet Center's Last Observation page is showing from the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope early today.

27
Oct.
2003

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27 October 2003 - Monday
Bits & pieces:  At last check, tiny 2003 UR25 with a quarter-day observing arc has yet to be reported seen since its October 25th announcement. Today the European Spaceguard Priority List put it at level 1 "Urgent," noting that it will go out of view for most observers on November 5th. It is predicted to be closest to Earth, at about 16 lunar distances, on Friday. The Priority List also today added several other recent tiny discoveries as Urgent or level 2 "Necessary" and with fleeting observation opportunities.
      The Hindu of India has an article today, "Orissa: Mad rush for meteorite
remnants."
With spades and crowbars in their hands, villagers are searching virtually each inch of the land where the meteorite had landed . . . to earn a fast buck by selling the remnants of meteorites to the research-oriented organisations. 
      Ngunnawal Observatory has posted a C/2003 T3 (Tabur) page with discovery confirmation and subsequent images and observational notes. And Vello Tabur has posted an account of finding that comet — "my first CCD based discovery since abandoning visual searches in 1998." Great Shefford Observatory continues to update its comet 157P/Tritton page, and its 2P/Encke page compares how the comet looked on August 3rd and October 21st during its approach to perihelion at year's end.
Hermes news:  Lutz Schmadel told the Minor Planet Mailing list (MPMLcookies required) today that Rob McNaught had located 1937 UB Hermes [link|alt] in 9 August 2001 images from the 1m telescope at Siding Spring in Australia. McNaught had originally made those images, and more on the 24th of that month, based on Schmadel and Joachim Schubart's prediction of where to look to recover Hermes on its 2001 Earth approach, but wasn't able to find Hermes in the images at the time. Now he has succeeded with the help of a far better orbit calculation since Hermes' recovery on October 15th. This new data is the earliest observation of Hermes since 1937, and was reported in today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC.
      For more about 1937 UB Hermes, see a news thread that continues below.
Risk monitoring:  The Monday Daily Orbit Update MPEC carries observations of 2003 TH2 from Saturday night from Bisei Spaceguard Center in Japan, from last night from Powell Observatory in Kansas, and from this morning from Great Shefford Observatory in England and KLENOT in the Czech Republic. There are also additional observations from Saturday morning from McCarthy and Hudson observatories. Today both risk monitors added one impact solution but lowered their overall TH2 risk ratings.
      The DOU shows observations of 2003 UO12 from KLENOT overnight, and today NEODyS and JPL very slightly raised their low risk ratings for this small object.
      KLENOT also caught 2003 UQ25 this morning, and today both risk monitors cut most of their impact solutions. NEODyS slightly raised its overall low UQ25 risk assessment, while JPL very slightly lowered its assessment.
For those new to impact risk monitoring, today's report is of normal activity in the routine night-and-day cycle of observation and analysis. There is nothing to be alarmed about here, but there are some points of interest, such as how long it is taking to eliminate 2003 TH2's impact solutions, and the fact that the only objects presently having solutions and under recent observation are all too small to be officially categorized as "potentially hazardous." (An "impact solution" is not a prediction that an event will happen, but rather that some risk of an event cannot yet be ruled out.)
      If any of these four small objects were ever to enter Earth's atmosphere, they would be expected to explode at high altitude. The smallest, at perhaps 10 meters/yards wide, would likely self-destruct completely and harmlessly. Such tiny objects are hard to track, and this one, designated 2003 UM3, hasn't been seen since discovery. Without enough observations to make an orbit calculation good enough to search for UM3 on its next Earth approach, or even to identify this object as itself if rediscovered, it will be considered "lost."
      To learn more about risk monitoring, see "Understanding Risk Pages" by Jon Giorgini of JPL, and many other links related to this subject.

26
Oct.
2003

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26 October 2003 - Sunday
Main Belt news:  The Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams is showing today that Main Belt object 22899 1999 TO14 has been found to have a satellite, which has been designated S/2003 (22899) 1.
TCO news:  Of the four Tunguska-class asteroid discoveries announced yesterday (see below) — 2003 UO25, UP25, UQ25, and UR25, the one with impact solutions (2003 UQ25) and the smallest one, announced with a quarter-day observing arc (2003 UR25), have no new observations reported in today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU). The other two have many new observations reported from yesterday morning during their confirmation phase.
      The observing arc of 26 hours and 45 minutes was not extended for 2003 UO5, but there were additional observations reported from UO25 discoverer LINEAR in New Mexico, and from Tenagra II and McDonald observatories in Arizona and Texas. And, although not flagged as corrections, the last position on UO25's observing arc, along with two other observations from the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope in Arizona, are restated in today's DOU.
      2003 UP25's observation arc was pushed past 24 hours with many positions reported from discoverer LINEAR and a triplet from Tenagra II.
Risk monitoring:  The Sunday Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) carries observations of 2003 TH2 from Montelupo Observatory from last night in Italy and this morning from Great Shefford Observatory in England and from the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope in Arizona. Today both risk monitors show an impact solution in the year 2045, while NEODyS retains one for 2061 and JPL continues to show one in 2091, beyond the NEODyS 2080 time horizon. Arecibo is showing that an attempt to image 2003 TH2 with radar on the 20th failed and requests continued optical astrometric and photometric observations to help prepare for the next scheduled attempt during 30-31 October.
      The DOU has new observations of 2003 UO12 from early yesterday from the Spacewatch 1.8m and Jornada Observatory in New Mexico. Both monitors have now slightly raised their low risk ratings for their single impact solutions for this tiny object.
      Today NEODyS added 2003 UQ25 to its Risk page. No new observations were reported in the DOU.

25
Oct.
2003

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25 October 2003 - Saturday
Site news:  As reported Thursday below, A/CC had not received E-mail since sometime Wednesday, and so please use (or copy in) our alternate address, being sure to put "A/CC" in the subject line. Today we are informed by A/CC's host Internet Service Provider that E-mail sent to A/CC during this period has been lost. We are also told that the problem has now been corrected, but our own testing so far indicates that an interruption continues. Anyone who has sent a message to A/CC since Tuesday, and who hasn't yet received a reply, please resend that mail to the alternate address, and please accept our apology for the trouble.

Readings:  BBC has an article from yesterday, "Europe gears up for comet chaser," about Rosetta, scheduled for launch on 26 February 2004. Sky & Telescope has an article yesterdaycookies required, "Hermes is Double!" (for more info about that, see 20-21 October news below).
PHO news:  Not initially categorized as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA), the various PHA lists now include 2003 UC20, which has been correlated with the lost 1954 XA (see below). Astrometric and photometric optical observations are being requested to help prepare for radar observation from Arecibo in Puerto Rico during 28-31 October. This morning's Daily Orbit Update MPEC carried 2003 UC20 observations from LINEAR and Table Mountain Observatory from yesterday, and Andrushivka Observatory in the Ukraine turned in a set of ten positions from this morning.
TCO news:  Four out of four new asteroid discoveries reported in today's MPECs have an absolute magnitude of H=22.7 to 25.5, which by standard formula puts their sizes at roughly 30 to 100 meters/yards wide. Three were discovered early yesterday, two by LINEAR and the other with the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope. One of them, 2003 UQ25, went straight to the JPL Current Risks page (see immediately below). The fourth and smallest, 2003 UR25, was announced in MPEC 2003-U71 with an observing arc of only six hours and six minutes. It was discovered and followed-up this morning by Miwa Block with the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope in Arizona, and was also observed by Jim Young at JPL's Table Mountain Observatory in southern California. The JPL Close Approach page says UR25 will fly by Earth at 16 lunar distances next Friday.
Risk monitoring (2003 TH2 updated) – Today JPL added to its Current Impact Risks page 2003 UQ25, another Tunguska-class object that is too small (JPL estimate: 40 meters/yards wide) to be officially categorized as "potentially hazardous." It was found early yesterday by Arianna Gleason with the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope in Arizona, and announced today in MPEC 2003-U70. The JPL Close Approach page reports that UQ25 will fly by Earth at 15.3 lunar distances on November 6th.
      The Saturday Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) carries observations of 2003 TH2 from yesterday morning from Egan, McDonald, and Desert Moon observatories and the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope, all in the U.S., and last night by KLENOT and Ondrejov Observatory in eastern Europe (Ondrejov reported ten positions spanning 59 minutes). Today JPL very slightly raised its overall risk estimate for this small object, while NEODyS added an earlier impact solution and very slightly raised its TH2 overall risk estimate. All solutions are still low rated.
      The DOU reports observations of 2003 UB10 from yesterday morning from Spacewatch (1.8m) and from Powell, McDonald, and Desert Moon observatories, and KLENOT caught it last night. Today NEODyS joined JPL in eliminating the last of its impact solutions for this object.
      KLENOT observed 2003 UO12 last night and today both risk monitors pared their UO12 risk assessments down to just one low-rated impact solution in 2067.

24
Oct.
2003

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24 October 2003 - Friday
Main Belt news:  The New Milford Times has an article today about how Monty Robson at John J. McCarthy Observatory in Connecticut discovered three Main Belt objects — 2003 TG10, TH10, and TO10 — in October 13th images he and Bill Cloutier had made while doing follow-up on 2003 TH2. TH2 is a much closer and much, much smaller object that currently has impact solutions (see risk tables).
Bits & pieces (expanded) – ABC Australia has an article today with Phillip Bland of the Royal School of Mines at London's Imperial College telling about setting up a fireball network in the Goldfields region of Western Australia (WA), "The idea is (that) if we get a few of these cameras out there, then we can work out what [a meteor's] orbit was before it hit our atmosphere, and where it lands on the surface. Maybe we can even say which asteroid it came from." He comments that "Meteorite scientists are like regular geologists in a way," except that studying meteorites is "Kinda like working out the geology of WA after someone's dumped a random load of rocks in your backyard." There is a link to audio with an interview about his work.
      Additional information:  Phillip Bland has a page telling about "establishing a small network in the Nullarbor Plain of south western Australia, a desert that has proved eminently suited to searching for meteorites (>1000 meteorite samples, many of which have been on Earth for thousands of years, have been recovered there)."
      With many recent discoveries of tiny asteroids buzzing Earth, it is timely to note that Bland is co-author of the July 17th journal Nature report on "Efficient disruption of small asteroids by the Earth's atmosphere" (see A/CC news links). The article (abstract) is available for download from him as a 390 Kb PDF file.
The edition of Cambridge Conference Correspondence for today contains a report of an NEO Public Awareness Symposium held in Wales on October 13th. There is also, coincidentally, what may be the last word on the Welsh "fireball" story from early this month. That event has been pretty conclusively identified as an unusual effect involving sunlight and the contrail of the supersonic Concorde departing for North America. (The Concorde made that trip west yesterday for the last time, now going into retirement.)
      The Russian tabloid Pravda has an item today, "Meteorite of a Football Size Discovered in Morocco," reportedly estimated to have fallen less than ten years ago.
      A joint news release was put out yesterday by UCLA and Cornell about the discovery by radar observation that 1937 UB Hermes is binary.
Risk monitoring (updated 2x) – The European Spaceguard Central Node has posted an observing campaign for 2003 UO12, noting its impact solutions and saying that, because its "sky uncertainty is growing very rapidly and the object is currently of magnitude 21, there is an urgent need of observations. There are large margins for orbital improvement since 2003 UO12 is approaching the Earth and will become a 19.5 magnitude target around the 10th of November."
Earlier reporting:  Today JPL and NEODyS added to their risk pages one of the four newly discovered Tunguska-class objects (TCOs) about which A/CC has been reporting (see more today) — 2003 UO12.
      Both JPL and NEODyS have eliminated their impact solutions for 2003 UL9. JPL also removed all of its solutions for 2003 UB10, while NEODyS eliminated most of its solutions and significantly lowered its overall risk estimate for UB10.
      TCO 2003 TH2 is back to just the one 2065 impact solution at NEODyS, while JPL has added solutions in 2061 and 2065 and has raised its (still low) overall risk assessment for TH2.
      Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU), which includes the batch of observations left out of yesterday DOU (see below), carries observations of 2003 TH2 from LONEOS and Spacewatch (1.8m) early yesterday and Great Shefford Observatory this morning. Yesterday morning 2003 UB10 was caught by the Spacewatch 1.8m and 2003 UL9 by Desert Moon Observatory. Observations of 2003 UO12 are reported from Tenagra II Observatory two mornings ago and the Spacewatch 1.8 early yesterday.
TCO news:  Among the four most recently discovered Tunguska-class objects, besides 2003 UO12, which is now listed with impact solutions (see above), a large set of 2003 UP12 observations from LINEAR from early two days ago is reported in today's DOU, along with observations of 2003 UQ12 from LINEAR and Tenagra II Observatory that same morning. Positions are reported for 2003 UY12 from LINEAR that morning and yesterday, and Goodricke-Pigott Observatory also reported it from early yesterday.
      For more about these four October 21st TCO discoveries by LINEAR, Spacewatch, and Goodricke-Pigott Observatory, see reports yesterday and the day before.

23
Oct.
2003

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23 October 2003 - Thursday
Site news:  A/CC has been experiencing a complete interruption in E-mail service since yesterday through its host Internet Service Provider, reported to be due to a widespread assault on E-mail servers. For anyone who might have sent something to A/CC recently and hasn't received a reply back, we have not received your message yet. You can instead try using (or also copy in) A/CC's alternate address, which appears to be receiving mail normally, but please put "A/CC" in the subject line to keep from getting lost in the deluge of spam received at that address.
Tidbits (updated) – NDTV.com in India is reporting today that "Three pieces of the extra-large meteorite that lit up the sky along coastal Orissa last month . . . are now on display at the Geological Survey of India office in Bhubaneswar for the people to have a closer look." There is a picture and video.
      Space.com is reporting today that the possibility a mystery spot seen on Jupiter "might have been generated by some foreign object . . . is doubted," noting that "astronomers did not report the presence of any potential nearby impactor."
      The Journal Nature edition dated today has two articles (available for purchase) about single-photon detectors. PhysicsWeb reported yesterday about this, saying that "Physicists in the US [at JPL] have made a single-pixel detector that can measure the energies of single photons." Although it operates "At temperatures near 1 kelvin," the superconducting "device is relatively simple to fabricate, so it could easily be made into a large array that contains hundreds of pixels." Update:  JPL put out a news release today with much more information.
TCO news:  The European Spaceguard Central Node Priority List today added as level 1 "Urgent" the Tunguska-class objects (TCOs) 2003 UO12 (out of view after November 14th), 2003 UP12 (disappears after October 30th), and 2003 UQ12 (gone after November 7th), and posted 2003 UY12 as level 2 "Necessary," going out of view for most observers after November 7th.
      The Minor Planet Center's Last Observation page, which doesn't presently list 2003 UY12, is today showing new observations from this morning for 2003 UO12, and indicates new observations from last night for 2003 UP12 and 2003 UQ12.
      See below for yesterday's account of these tiny objects and their Earth flybys.
NEO news (updated) – MPEC 2003-U56 reports additional observations of 2003 UC20 by LINEAR this morning and announces a correlation, 2003 UC20 = 1954 XA, "based upon a successful linkage of the 1954 and 2003 observations by A. Lowe," who achieved this by discarding one of two "problematic" 1954 XA observations from 11 December 1954.
Earlier report:  MPEC 2003-U55 today announces 2003 UC20 as discovered by LINEAR on the 21st and followed up yesterday by LINEAR with Table Mountain and Tenagra II observatories, and this morning by Table Mountain. From its brightness (H=19.3), 2003 UC20 is estimated to be on the order of 475 meters/yards wide.
      With the MPEC is this copyrighted note from Timothy Spahr:
The orbital elements for 2003 UC20 bear some resemblance to those of 1954 XA. Attempts to link the two apparitions have not been successful, although a number of dynamical routes that allow 2003 UC20 to make a close Earth approach in 1954 have been identified. Further observations are very desirable. 
      1954 XA was discovered by George Abell at Mt. Palomar on 5 December 1954, and was only observed once more, six days later, according to the NEODyS observation tally and 1954 XA's entry in the EARN database. Although not seen since, 1954 XA is often included in NEO lists, and is on Lowell Observatory's Orbit intersections list as a potentially hazardous object (PHO).
      Today's MPEC does not categorize 2003 UC20 as a PHO, but there is already more and better data for UC20 than for 1954 XA, so it will be interesting to see how this story progresses with further observation and analysis.
Comet news:  MPEC 2003-U54 today announces comet P/2003 U3 (NEAT), which was discovered early yesterday with the JPL NEAT program's Mt. Palomar telescope and has also been found in LONEOS images from the 17th. It was followed up this morning by JPL's Table Mountain Observatory along with Cordell-Lorenz and Tenagra II observatories. The preliminary calculation has perihelion inside the asteroid Main Belt at 2.384 AU last May 1st, and aphelion out toward Saturn.
Risk monitoring (updated) – Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) from the Minor Planet Center (MPC) carries only updated orbits and no observations, so, at last check, the risk monitors' pages remain where they stood yesterday (see below). The MPC Last Observation page is showing that new observations are in for current risk concerns 2003 TH2, 2003 UB10, and 2003 UL9 from this morning.
      Update:  The MPC Status Page reported today that "The new NEO observations failed to get put on last night's DOU MPEC" due to a glitch, and "The missing observations will be on the next DOU MPEC."

22
Oct.
2003

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22 October 2003 - Wednesday
TCO news (expanded) – In Minor Planet Electronic Circulars (MPECs) issued so far today UT, six asteroids have been announced as discovered yesterday, and four of them have initial absolute magnitudes that identify them as Tunguska-class objects (TCOs). With H=23.1 to H=25.4, the standard formula gives them best-guess widths of roughly 25 to 80 meters/yards. LINEAR in New Mexico caught three of these, and the other was found with the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope in Arizona.
      All four objects have a PHO-type Earth MOID (minimum orbit intersection distance under 0.05 AU), but are too small to be officially categorized as "potentially hazardous." The JPL Close Approach page is showing, from preliminary orbit calculations, that one of these objects, 2003 UQ12, flew past Earth at 6.2 lunar distances (LD) on the 18th, while two others are still approaching. 2003 UP12 will fly by at 11.5 LD on the 26th and 2003 UO12 at 15.5 LD on November 11th.
      A twist has been added to this story regarding the fourth object. A later MPEC reports that one of LINEAR's tiny discoveries yesterday was also spotted early on the 17th by Goodricke-Pigott Observatory in Arizona, home to Roy Tucker's unusual drift-scan sky survey that uses three fixed-attitude 0.35m telescopes. MPEC 2003-U46 announced 2003 US12 and 2003-U49 announces 2003 UY12 = 2003 US12.
      It was LINEAR's discovery (2003 US12=AI53794) posted to the NEO Confirmation Page (NEOCP) yesterday that Powell, Desert Moon, and Table Mountain observatories followed-up this morning. Tucker's discovery (2003 UY12=RT5018) was posted to the NEOCP on the 18th but withdrawn on the 20th as "not confirmed." Now it will go into the record books as 2003's seventh amateur NEO discovery, topping last year's total of six.
Bits & pieces:  The next Space Resources Roundtable meeting will be held during 28-30 October at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo. The agenda, which has been posted as an MS-Word .doc file, includes a talk on "Beneficiation of Asteroidal Materials in Space," many presentations on Moon and Mars mining, such as "Microwave Processing Of Lunar Soil," as well as more-general discussion.
      A Press Trust of India story at the Hindustan Times today reports that "fragments of the cosmic fireball that fell over large stretches of Orissa's Kendrapada and Mayurbhanj districts on September 27 showed that it was an iron meteorite."
      Astronomy.com has an article today, "Hermes Divided," about 1937 UB Hermes radar observations. And the Flagstaff Arizona Daily Sun has an article today, "Asteroid reappears after nearly 66 years." See below for more Hermes info and links.
      The Denver Post has an article today, "Group seeks to zap asteroids," telling about the B612 Foundation and its space tug concept (more below).
      A European Space Agency (ESA) item today tells about the history of gravity-assisted space maneuvers. It concludes by noting that "the gravitational influence of planets also affects the distribution of asteroids and comets," and "one-off gravitational effects" can send objects "plummeting into the inner Solar System. . .  Watching for these 'wild cards' is a prime area of study for ESA."
Risk monitoring (updated) – NEODyS has now added 2003 UB10 to its Risks page.
First report:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC carries observations of 2003 TH2 and 2003 UL9 from Powell Observatory in Kansas from early yesterday. And today risk estimates were lowered for 2003 UL9, especially at NEODyS. The two monitors split on 2003 TH2, with JPL removing its one 2065 impact solution and adding a very slightly lower-rated solution in 2091. NEODyS added to its 2065 solution another in 2061 for a net slight increase in its overall TH2 risk assessment.
      The European Spaceguard Central Node Priority List today put 2003 UB10 at level 1 "Urgent" and notes that this object will go out of view for most observers on December 4th.

21
Oct.
2003

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21 October 2003 - Tuesday
Comet news:  MPEC 2003-U38 announces comet P/2003 U2 (LINEAR) today, just discovered but also found in LINEAR observations going back to September 19th and October 2nd. Perihelion is put at 1.71 AU this December 4th.
NEO news:  MPEC 2003-U23 yesterday announced 2003 UD8, a large object with an orbit calculated to approach both Earth and Jupiter at low inclination (i=3.9°). It was discovered by LINEAR early Saturday, and, from its brightness (H=16.48 per JPL), the standard formula puts UD8's size on the order of 1.74 km. (1.08 miles), but the estimate grows to as large as 3.01 km. (1.87 miles) if it is a comet nucleus, as its orbit suggests. JPL's Orbit Viewer puts 2003 UD8 now past perihelion, which was at 1.286 AU on October 15th. And Lowell Observatory's MOIDs page shows a Jupiter minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.6593 AU.
      2003 UC10 was announced today in MPEC 2003-U31. It is yet another Tunguska-class object discovered with the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope in Arizona, this time by Andrew Tubbiolo yesterday morning, and followed up this morning by Great Shefford, Powell, and Table Mountain observatories plus the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope. The Sormano Observatory Small Asteroids and Lowell Observatory MOIDs pages both list 2003 UC10 with a PHO MOID, but, judging from its brightness (H=24.1), it is too small (40 to 90 meters/yards wide) to be officially categorized as potentially hazardous.
Observatory news (updated) – The building site for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO) near Soccoro, New Mexico was dedicated yesterday with the help of British royalty. See the Associated Press story carried at the Arizona Republic today, "Prince Andrew dedicates N.M. observatory," and the Albuquerque Tribune's report today, "Howdy, there, your royal highness," and [new], on October 22nd, the Socorro El Defensor Chieftan's report, "Prince Andrew plants a tree, blows up a car."
      The full MRO optical interferometer with ten 1.4m telescopes is planned to be completed in 2008, while the central 2.4m telescope may see first light in 2006. Project scientist/manager Eileen Ryan explains that "One of the core science drivers for the single telescope is the study of small bodies in the Solar System, primarily asteroids."
      The Arizona Republic also has an article today, "Space in new perspective," about Lowell Observatory's recently announced plans for the 4.3m Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) near Flagstaff, Arizona. It mentions intentions to use the new instrument, after it is finished in 2008, to hunt for distant Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt objects, quoting Lowell's director, Robert Millis, as saying "I won't be surprised if we discover objects as large or larger than Pluto." Astronomy.com also has a report today, "Discovery Telescope to Enlighten and Entertain."
Hermes news (updated) – Lowell Observatory issued a news release today, "Near-Earth Asteroid Hermes Re-spotted, 66 Years Later," summarizing the whole 1937 UB Hermes episode to date, including that, on October 16th, "Andrew Rivkin and Richard Binzel of MIT observed a spectrum of Hermes using the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii, and were able to ascertain that the asteroid is of a type known as S class."
      Note:  This item says that Hermes is the "only near-Earth object not also identified by number." It should instead say the "only named object not also identified by number." (There are many near-Earth objects with year designations that are not yet numbered by the International Astronomical Union. Numbering requires observation over sufficient time to determine an accurate orbit, and naming is almost never done before numbering.)
Earlier report:  JPL has posted its portion of the text from yesterday's IAUC 8227 circular that announced that 1937 UB Hermes had been found to be binary (see below). Caltech radar observer Jean-Luc Margot has a Hermes page that says this is "the first known near-Earth asteroid binary with equal-sized components." The page has a "Doppler spectrum of the radar echo [showing] two clearly separated components" along with radar imagery showing "the relative motion of the components over the course of about one hour on Oct 19." And there is this:
Last year we observed an asteroid, 2002 SY50, that bears a striking resemblance to Hermes in terms of size and orbital parameters, and it is possible that the two objects are dynamically related. A close planetary encounter might have tidally disrupted a large object, leaving Hermes and 2002 SY50 on similar orbits. 
With that 2002 SY50 planning page is a report that "Hermes [is not] 2002 SY50." (A/CC has more about 2002 SY50 [link|alt].)
      The planning page for Hermes radar observations appears to show that Arecibo in Puerto Rico has finished its three observing opportunities, and reports observations are planned from Goldstone in southern California on November 8th and 9th. Margot's Hermes page says that "an additional window was obtained on Oct 26 thanks to the generosity of the aeronomy group at Arecibo," and indicates that more time has been requested at Goldstone. Closest approach to Earth will be on November 4th at 18.6 lunar distances.
      Also mentioned is that "Using the radar data, Jon Giorgini computed an improved orbit for Hermes, and provided a close approach table" showing Hermes' encounters with Earth, Moon, Mars, Venus, and 4 Vesta from AD 1561 through 2103.
      Thanks to Pepe Manteca for the news tip that Lowell Observatory has posted a Recovery of 1937 UB (Hermes) page with an animation of the recovery images from Brian Skiff at LONEOS.
      Space.com has an article today, "Mystery Asteroid, Hermes, May Have a Partner."
PHO news (updated 2x) – JPL has added 2003 UB10 to its Current Impact Risks page. This object was announced today in MPEC 2003-U30 as having been discovered by Andrew Tubbiolo with the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope in Arizona early yesterday. From its brightness, JPL is estimating this object's diameter to be on the order of 585 meters/yards.
Second report:  NEODyS has added 2003 UL9, and JPL again brought back 2003 TH2, now homed in like NEODyS on one remaining low-rated impact solution 62 years and nineteen days away.
      Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports observations of 2003 TH2 from LINEAR yesterday morning in New Mexico and Great Shefford Observatory early today in England. There were no new observations reported for 2003 UL9 or 2003 UM3.
      The European Spaceguard Central Node Priority List today put 2003 UL9 at level 2 "Necessary" and notes that it will go out of view for most observers on November 3rd.
First report:  JPL has posted 2003 UL9 on October 20th in Pasadena based on the discovery MPEC 2003-U26, which has a time stamp of 0042 on the 21st UT. 2003 UL9 was discovered early on the 19th by LINEAR in New Mexico. Its orbit is highly inclined (i=63.2°) and, from its brightness (H=21.6), UL9 is estimated by JPL to be on the order of 160 meters/yards wide.

20
Oct.
2003

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20 October 2003 - Monday
Hermes news:  Although it won't be released for some time to the public, the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) IAUC 8227 today announces that 1937 UB Hermes has been found from radar observation to be "two separate components of roughly equal sizes. . .  Preliminary estimates of the diameters . . . are 300-450 m." This information was posted to the Minor Planet Mailing list (MPMLcookies required) where a discussion was in progress about interpreting 1937 UB photometric observations.
Comet news:  MPEC 2003-U25 today announces comet C/2003 U1 (LINEAR) and shows the earliest LINEAR observations as coming from yesterday morning. The first preliminary orbit calculation has a parabolic retrograde (i=164.4°) path with perihelion out past the orbit of Mars at 1.808 AU on November 1st.
Tidbits:  The Orionid meteor shower peaks tomorrow morning, and, in other news for skywatchers, SpaceWeather.com is predicting that aurora may be visible at mid-latitudes tonight and tomorrow night.
      Space.com has a report today, "Lost & Found: Near-Earth Asteroid Spotted after 66 Years," telling about 1937 UB Hermes. See below for the top of a news thread about this with many more links.
      The Fairbanks News-Miner had an AP wire story on October 18th (also at Anchorage Daily News today), "Suspected microburst flattens trees near Ruby," saying that what some had suggested might have been a meteoric event was instead meteorological. "Nobody knows when it happened. A pilot who flew over the area at the start of the moose hunting season in September was the first to notice the hole in the woods on what's called Ninemile Island."
      NASA/Marshall has a news release from October 16th, "From asteroids to astronaut gloves, summer students and faculty contribute to science at NASA research center."
Through the Minorities in Science and Engineering Program, [Rakia Law, a sophomore at Alabama A&M University] spent 10 weeks working with Dr. Jonathan W. Campbell, a NASA astrophysicist and space scientist who researches advanced projects, technologies and concepts for future NASA missions at the National Space Science and Technology Center. Among these projects is protecting Earth from asteroids and other space-borne objects. "There's a significant number of asteroids that may pose a potential danger to Earth," Law said. "I spent the summer researching these objects and exploring methods — such as deflecting them with lasers — to prevent them from impacting our planet." 
PHO news (updated 2x) – Arecibo is showing that 2003 TH2 has been scheduled for radar observation between now and October 31st.
Second report:  The Monday Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) has observations of 2003 TH2 from yesterday morning from Camarillo Observatory in California and KLENOT in the Czech Republic last night. Today JPL again removed this object from its Current Risks page, while NEODyS dropped back to one low-rated impact solution.
      Nothing is reported for 2003 UM3, which now requires the participation of larger telescopes. A/CC has been informed that one of the few larger telescopes used for NEO work, the INT 2.5m on La Palma, isn't available.
      The DOU shows that the interesting PHO 2003 QO104, which is no longer listed with impact solutions, was picked up by LINEAR in New Mexico yesterday morning, the first time it has been reported seen since the 13th.
First report:  The Arecibo scheduling page is requesting optical astrometric and photometric observations of 2003 TH2 to help make the best use of radar observation time that has been requested during 20-31 October. JPL is predicting that TH2 will pass Earth at 7.1 lunar distances nine days from now.
NEO news (updated & corrected) – The radar observation planning pages are asking for astrometric and photometric optical observations of 2003 TL4 to help get the most from radar observations. Arecibo is showing that observing time has been requested for 28-30 October, and Goldstone into November. JPL is predicting that TL4 will pass Earth at 10.1 lunar distances on October 28th.
      Examining discovery MPECs for objects found during the 30-day period from 19 September through 18 October, there were 27 asteroids discovered with absolute magnitudes (H) greater than 21.0. (Larger magnitude numbers for asteroids mean less bright, which is interpreted as smaller size.) This list includes 2003 SQ222, the smallest object with an orbit calculation, and the object with the closest known Earth flyby. It was discovered through a prototype program for public help with examining LONEOS 0.59m telescope images. And the list of 26 also includes the only two objects under active tracking on the risk monitors' pages — 2003 TH2 and 2003 UM3, both found with the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope, which is itself gaining a public program to help find more such objects (see below).
Size   
Range 
Absolute
Magnitude
SpacewatchLONEOSLINEARNEATParanal
0.9m1.8m0.59m1.0mPalomar 1.2m8.2m
106–373m22.0>=H>21.0012220
17–236m26.0>=H>22.0603411
<=37mH>26.0112100
Totals 727731
While LINEAR continues to be tops at finding most of the bigger objects, Spacewatch and LONEOS appear to have successfully identified search strategies to find asteroids that LINEAR is missing, including these tiny nearby objects about which much more needs to be known.
      It should be noted that there is disagreement within the minor object science community about the brightness-to-size formula and its assumptions, but this is the only generally accepted method available for estimating the size of non-binary objects that haven't been observed by radar, infrared, or visiting spacecraft. Most recently, a September 5th MIT news release reported that a new study had found that near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) reflect more light than had been believed (14 vs. 11%) and so "are slightly smaller than previously assumed." Estimating size and mass isn't just a matter of scientific curiosity, but is also key to the Palermo Scale for calculating impact risks.
      As could be expected with faint objects that move quickly across the sky, follow-up observing is a huge problem. There were 43 objects on the JPL Current Impact Risks page yesterday, but only two were under active observation and analysis. Of the other 41, all but ten have an absolute magnitude greater than 22.0. This includes all 12 objects discovered during 2002-2003 that disappeared into the darkness before their impact solutions could be eliminated. So, while smaller professional telescopes are doing well at discovering tiny Earth-buzzers, the job they start can be finished only with the help of larger telescopes, and that help today can be described as "sparse."

19
Oct.
2003

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19 October 2003 - Sunday
Comet news:  Peter Birtwhistle tells A/CC that Great Shefford Observatory has updated its 157P/Tritton page to demonstrate "how that comet is rapidly changing as its outburst subsides." An October 18th image shows a comet considerably fainter than in the image from eight days earlier, even though the new image "has almost double the exposure."
      The Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca has posted imagery from October 18th of 2P/Encke [link|alt]. This comet, which has been observed since 1786 and has a nucleus radius estimated at 2.4 km. (1.5 miles), crosses over Earth's orbit next month on its way to perihelion just inside Mercury's orbit on December 29th.
      The Stardust mission reported Friday that everything is proceeding normally, except that "Recent images taken by Stardust's navigation camera indicate that a small amount of contamination has reappeared on the camera." Heaters have been activated to fix the problem. See the A/CC Stardust archive for more about this mission which will fly by comet 81P/Wild 2 [link|alt] on the second day of 2004.
Hermes news:  The Daily Orbit Update MPEC for Sunday reports radar observations of 1937 UB Hermes [link|alt] by Arecibo in Puerto Rico yesterday morning at midnight local time and again 50 minutes later. During this interval Hermes was also being observed optically by Petit Jean Mountain Observatory in Arkansas. And many other 1937 UB observations are reported from around the world, from Wednesday through last night. (See more news below.)
PHO news (updated 4x) – JPL has put 2003 TH2 back onto its Current Risks page with one low-rated impact solution, and it has since also added 2003 UM3.
Earlier reports:  NEODyS has added the tiny 2003 UM3 to its Risk page based on observations reported in yesterday's discovery MPEC (see below). No new observations were reported in today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU). According to Sormano Observatory, the object is well in view, but only for larger telescopes.
      The DOU carries observations of 2003 TH2 from Jornada Observatory in New Mexico yesterday morning and KLENOT in the Czech Republic last night, while Consell Observatory in Spain and Jornada caught it this morning. Today NEODyS added two impact solutions and again slightly raised the risk assessment for this low-rated object.

18
Oct.
2003

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18 October 2003 - Saturday
1937 UB found in NEAT/Palomar 13 June 2002 images
Piece of a screen shot from Astrometrica showing Reiner Stoss's find of 1937 UB in images from NEAT/Palomar from 13 June 2002.
Click here for more of the screen shot.
Hermes news:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) carries 73 observations of 1937 UB Hermes from eleven observatories from late on the 15th through last night. This famous and relatively bright object is bringing lots of participation from a wider array of observatories than usually seen contributing PHO observations. For all that, however, not much in the way of imagery has been posted yet. The Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca (OAM) has just put up a Hermes page (also in Spanish), and this is expected to update with more information. Sormano Observatory has posted a 1937 UB animation to its gallery page.
      A/CC reported yesterday that Reiner Stoss had located 1937 UB in images from NEAT's Mt. Palomar telescope from June 13th of last year — the only sky position yet located between October 1937 and August 2003. At upper right is an Astrometrica screen shot showing his result, which got a private thank-you note from JPL's NEO Program Office.
      The Minor Planet Center has appealed for radar observations of 1937 UB, and the various radar planning pages reflect that an effort is being made to find observing time at Arecibo and Goldstone, and optical physical observations are requested ("lightcurves, color, etc.") to help with the effort.
      Astronomy.com has an article today about "Long-lost Asteroid Recovered" that ends with "If you'd like to try to spot Hermes . . ." and gives the original instead of most recent 1937 UB MPEC "for ephemeris and orbital elements." MPEC 2003-U04 from Thursday is the newest, but use one of the ephemerides generators instead for the very latest info, such as the Minor Planet Ephemeris Service (MPES).
Spacewatch adds public participation:  Spacewatch has a new FMO Project to involve the public in observing runs with its 0.9 telescope by having them watch for fast-moving objects (FMOs) that cannot be easily or reliably detected by software automation. Discovery and recovery credits will be given. "The only requirements for participation in the FMO project are 1) interest, 2) sharp eyes and 3) access to a computer during the hours that the Spacewatch mosaic system [CCD camera] is in operation." A broadband Internet connection is recommended, along with 1280x1024 screen resolution and a 19" monitor. "Knowledge about astronomy" is "Useful (but not necessary)." The site includes a tutorial that should be interesting even for those who don't participate, and further help is available for those who do.
Correction:  Our original report was that the SOHO-hosted "chat page itself went dead sometime after September 18th," but A/CC has been informed that the chat page was only having problems and hasn't actually been shut down. However, that page is being maintained just so that the public has a place to send comet reports, even if nothing is being done with them, otherwise people might redirect their messages to other USNRL, NASA, ESA, and IAU addresses that don't want them.
SOHO ends public participation (corrected) – After about 650 discoveries, with some 100 still unreported to the IAU, SOHO comet hunting has now come to a halt. Derek Hammer, the last of the ESA/NASA mission staff members who used to confirm, measure, and report discoveries to the Minor Planet Center (MPC), on August 4th posted his final message to the SOHO-hosted chat page for announcing and confirming SOHO comet discoveries.
      Most of the comets discovered via SOHO were on a final dive into the Sun, a type of cometary phenomenon that was almost unknown before SOHO. Some discoveries were "sungrazers," and a few were ordinary comets.
      NASA and ESA have let die a low-budget effort that involved citizens worldwide in doing real science and that resulted in some very nice PR about stunning discoveries and public participation in an international space mission via the Internet. This ends not only future science results but also hard-won results that hadn't finished processing. The last MPEC with SOHO discoveries was 2003-P02 of August 1st, and the German Comet Section reported the next day that "nearly 80 Kreutz comets" were yet to be put through to the MPC. Tony Hoffman says "nearly all the Kreutz comets found since late November, 2002" remain unprocessed. Maik Meyer's backlog page puts this Kreutz family number at "close to 100 comets," and also lists five uncataloged non-Kreutz comets.
      Many small dead comets may seem unimportant relative to "'real' astronomy," budget constraints, and the success of big-ticket public outreach efforts that were planned instead of self-evolved, but a hundred comets (and more with time) out of some 650 is a very large percentage of the data potentially available to help better understand the nature and origin of the large Earth-crossing comets from which it is believed these last shards came. The previous data is still there to be processed, and the images are still coming in from SOHO and being archived, but it is unknown what it will take to make any of this be useful to minor object science.
Intruder (updated 2x) – Francesco Manca tells A/CC that "starting on Oct. 19 [2003 UM3] will be observable only with a 2m or more greater telescopes (for instance in Europe at La Palma) due to its magnitude."
      Update:  On October 19th, both NEODyS and JPL added 2003 UM3 to their risk pages based on observations in the discovery MPEC (no new observations had been reported from overnight). JPL puts absolute magnitude at H=28.01, which ups the best-guess diameter estimate by one meter, except that neither the early magnitude calculation nor the standard magnitude-to-size formula can be used at such a fine scale, and, regardless, it is too small to cause ground damage if it were to enter the Earth's atmosphere.
Earlier report:  MPEC 2003-U12 reports another tiny Earth-buzzing object. 2003 UM3 passed Earth at less than one lunar distance last Sunday and was discovered yesterday morning by Jeff Larsen with the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope in Arizona. It was followed up by Arianna Gleason with the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope both immediately and again this morning.
      By standard formula from its brightness (H=28.1), UM3 is roughly estimated at 5 to 15 meters/yards wide, with 8 as best guess. Francesco Manca at Sormano Observatory tells A/CC that UM3 passed Earth at 0.0018 AU on October 12th, which is just over 70% of the distance between Earth and Moon. This comes from the preliminary orbit calculation, which could change if further observations are reported, but, as it stands, it is the ninth closest passage on record, and the third closest reported just this year.
      From its presently calculated minimum orbital intersection distance with Earth (MOID, see Sormano's Small Asteroids list), 2003 UM3 would qualify as "potentially hazardous" if it were larger, but objects in its size range self-destruct harmlessly at high-altitude if they enter Earth's atmosphere.
PHO news:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC carries observations of 2003 TH2 from both Friday and Saturday morning from Great Shefford Observatory in England, and from last night from KLENOT in the Czech Republic. Today NEODyS again slightly raised the risk assessment for its one low-rated impact solution for this object.


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Notes

 top 
Editors Notes
Changes: Information about the publisher, site privacy policy, site history, disclaimer, and information for the news media about contacts for authoritative sources has all moved to an about page. Glossary and general space news links have moved to a links page.
Notice: As of 26 June 2003, some of A/CC's many links to European Space Agency information may be dead due to a major restructuring of ESA's Web presecne. It appears that ESA is now providing some redirection help to visitors coming from old links, but A/CC over time will rebuild the links to insure continuity. As always, if you find a bad link on this site, please tell us.
Details: All times are Universal (UT or UTC, like the old GMT) unless otherwise stated. We use "slightly changed risk rating" to refer to movements in tenths of a point on the Palermo Scale (PS), and "very slightly" to describe adjustments in hundredths of a point.
Catalog links: For some reason not yet fathomed, perhaps occasional traffic congestion, the A/CC Catchall Catalog page server may return a blank page when looking up a minor object, so we also provide alternate links to a lesser version of the catalog with static pages, in the form object [link|alt].
Asteroid CCD images wanted: Pepe Manteca and Rafael Ferrando are seeking asteroid images and animations from all observers for their Web de NEOs pages. The number of these pages continues to grow, and are all connected from the Catchall Catalog with observer credits and links (look for the [Obs CCD] button).
Support your local planet: To track the growing number of discoveries and follow-on observations of minor objects, including quick work on potentially Earth-threatening objects, requires better support for the IAU's Minor Planet Center. And YOU can help. Please do!


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