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yesterday November tomorrow
Wednesday26 November 20034:02pm MST2003-11-26 UTC 2302
Today's news about Asteroids, Comets & Meteors
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Impact science:  The November 25th Proceedings of the (U.S.) National Academy of Sciences has an article by Ming Chen et al. about discovering new minerals (chromite polymorphs) that are formed in the unusual high-pressure conditions of meteor impacts and maybe deep within Earth's mantle (abstract). According to an ABC Australia report today, "The researchers found the new mineral in shock veins formed by the impact of the Suizhou meteorite on China in 1986," and notes that this work potentially presents a way to gauge impact velocity.

Some old minerals — gold, nickle, and platinum — are the subject of a BBC report yesterday, "Quest for space impact riches," about the correlation of impact structures and major metal deposits.

Rosetta:  There is a brief Rosetta Journal entry today about preparation of the Rosetta spacecraft for launch on its comet mission, including installation of computer PROM (programmable read-only memory) cassettes and activities related to the GIADA (Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator) instrument.

New-found objects:  Discoveries announced today include the kilometer-size 2003 WW87, found by Brian Skiff early Monday at LONEOS. From its brightness it estimated to be on the order of 1.3 km. (0.81 mile) wide (MPEC 2003-W64). Also first spotted Monday morning is 2003 WY87, the latest H>22 discovery. It was found by LINEAR and followed up this morning by Powell and Tenagra II observatories, and is estimated to be roughly 100 meters/yards wide.

2003 WT42 orbit diagrams Multiple orbit views for unusual object 2003 WT42 created from EasySky screen shots.

Climbing to perihelion:  The Minor Planet Center shows continuing observations of unusual object and possible comet 2003 WT42, such as by Linhaceira Observatory yesterday and LINEAR today. The orbit calculation has changed with the new data and is now down to 877 AU as WT42's most distant point from the Sun, an "astronomical" 251-AU decrease from Monday's discovery MPEC (see A/CC's report).

Tracking small objects:  There has to be a division somewhere for deciding which asteroids are too small to call dangerous, and that line is drawn at absolute magnitude H>22.0. But this is less a line and more a fuzzy region in many ways, beginning with calculating H itself. For instance, 2003 WU21 was announced at H=22.3 but is now set at H=21.9. If it had an orbit that possibly threatened the Earth, this change would have moved WU21 onto the official "potentially hazardous asteroid" (PHA) lists, because, without other information, smaller H equals brighter, and brighter is taken to mean bigger.

Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports that last night Montcabre Observatory caught 2002 WU21 and Linz Observatory got 2003 WP21, which is another borderline object at H=21.7. While 2003 WU21 is only a threat to the planet Mercury, according to Lowell Observatory's Orbit intersections list, 2003 WP21 is an official PHA. New data for smaller objects currently in view (see yesterday) was not reported.


Perkins & PRISM

Perkins & PRISM:  The Boston Globe has an article from yesterday, "BU team keeps a powerful eye on the sky," telling about first light "One night this month" (it was November 2nd) for the new Boston University (BU) Perkins Re-Imaging SysteM (PRISM) on the 72" (1.8m) Perkins Telescope at Lowell Observatory. This is an old telescope with a long history that begins early last century in Central Ohio and later moves to Arizona. It was the world's third largest telescope when built, and is reportedly the largest telescope ever moved.

In the sharing arrangement, BU gets half the observing nights, and for that work PRISM is designed to perform multiple tasks for studying stars and galaxies. But this is at Lowell, after all, so PRISM is also designed with a "wide field of view to provide the same astrometric or photometric reference stars from night-to-night during opposition observations [of] Kuiper Belt Objects."

A story about the telescope's original 69" mirror, which returned from Flagstaff, explains that telescope mirrors shouldn't be used for solar-cooking hot dogs, and shouldn't be cleaned with Windex.


Risk monitoring 26 Nov.

Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports no new observations of the two objects presently listed with impact solutions and under recent observation. The European Spaceguard Central Node Priority List indicates that 2003 WG will be in view until early January, but 2003 WW26 will go out of view for most observers in two weeks.

Summary Risk Table - sources checked at 1856 UTC, 26 Nov




 2003 WW26 NEODyS 11/252061-20803-4.55-4.6003.681
JPL 11/252061-20988-4.19-4.6103.681
 2003 WG NEODyS 11/252055-20551-2.50-2.5006.721
JPL 11/252055-20551-2.51-2.5106.721
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.

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