|Wednesday||3 December 2003||11:09pm MST||2003-12-04 UTC 0609|
SIRTF: The Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) celebrated its 100th day in space yesterday, and has begun its 110-hour First-Look Survey. "The in-orbit checkout and science verification period has concluded and the observatory has started its science mission," with some results expected to be available "by mid-January."
Dark skies: Astronomers at Williams College in Massachusetts are having to fight expanding light pollution from their own institution, but do have the support of neighbors, according to an article today at The Advocate.
Readings: About Stardust acquiring its target early (see A/CC's report), the Associated Press has a short wire story carried yesterday at CNN, MSNBC, and elsewhere, and Astrobiology Magazine ran the JPL news release as an article today.
USA Today has an article from yesterday, "Small near-Earth asteroids pose more imminent threat." This comes out of September's proposal within NASA to extend the search for NEOs to smaller diameters after 2008 (see A/CC's report).
An article at the Bryan-College Station, Texas Eagle today, "NASA historian touts exploration," tells briefly about ideas for using the Moon for planetary defense.
Of the four objects that have been in recent view and have impact solutions, the only one reported in today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) is 2003 WY153, which has two positions from Tenagra II Observatory in Arizona from yesterday morning. Today JPL very slightly raised its ratings for a single low-rated impact solution for this small object in 2071, and it is now back again on the NEODyS Risk page with an assessment similar to JPL's.
Francesco Manca tells A/CC that 2003 WT153 will go out of view tomorrow for large telescopes, and reports that The next opportunity to re-observe 2003 WT153 will be in September 2008 but the object will have a magnitude of about 21.5 V; very difficult for many observers. Besides, this small NEA has passed at about 1.75 LD, close enough to be deflected by the Earth. The orbit is based on a short observational arc and in 2008 the uncertainty of the position in the sky will be great, not easy for an intentional recovery.
Update: On Wednesday evening in Pisa, NEODyS has posted 2003 WD158 based on the observations reported in yesterday's discovery MPEC 2003-X07. This object was discovered by LINEAR early Sunday and is estimated from its brightness to be roughly on the order of 360 meters/yards wide.
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