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Saturday6 December 20032:18pm MST2003-12-06 UTC 2118
Today's news about Asteroids, Comets & Meteors
Page status: done, plus new 2003 XJ7 illustration below
Animation from 6 Dec. 2003
of 2003 XJ7 Earth approach#013;(c)Peter Birtwhistle 2003 XJ7 confirmation images from this morning from Great Shefford Observatory put into an animation showing this small and faint object's fast approach toward and below Earth.
Busy skies

During an exchange of E-mails with Reiner Stoss in Germany about success with following 2003 XV's close flyby yesterday evening (more below) using the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca (OAM) remotely operated telescope, he came back with this about an object on the Minor Planet Center (MPC) NEO Confirmation page (NEOCP): "Look how this one speeds up. If the assumed orbit is right. The uncertainty is huge." MPEC 2003-X30, issued with a 0230 UT time today announced 2003 XJ7 as having been discovered Friday morning by LINEAR in New Mexico and confirmed early Saturday morning UT by Great Shefford Observatory in England. The MPEC assigned an absolute magnitude that converts to a rough width estimate of 25 meters/yards and didn't footnote anything special about this object, but its ephemeris showed a distance from Earth later in the day of "0.0010" AU, or about 0.4 lunar distance.

Today the MPC Closest Approaches page has 2003 XJ7's passage at "0.00099 2003 Dec. 6.79," sixth in the all-time top-ten list of closest approaches by asteroids, the second closest this year, and the third largest to come this close. That's about 0.387 lunar distances (LD) at around 1900 UT today (2pm EST). Pasquale Tricarico tells A/CC that XJ7 passed the Moon at about 0.723 LD around 1430 UT (9:30am EST) this morning.

Busy skies, part 2
2003 XJ7 flyby 6 Dec. 2003
by Pasquale Tricarico with ORSA
frame relationship Animation of 2003 XJ7 diving through the Earth-Moon system during 5-7 December, assembled from frames created by Pasquale Tricarico using ORSA for Linux. All motion is Earth-centered. Discovery was at Dec. 5.25 and Earth approach at Dec. 6.8.
      The cube at right shows how the above frames relate. The left frame looks outward, away from the Sun, and the right frame looks toward the Earth's direction of travel (Sun to left). The center frame, of course, looks down on the Earth's north pole.

Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) carries further observations of 2003 XJ7 from OAM and Great Shefford, and the MPC Last Observation page is showing that Ageo Observatory in Japan also caught it.

The animation at right is from frames created by Pasquale Tricarico using today's MPC orbital elements. [Esc] stops and Refresh restarts it.

These and the next observation reports for small objects are from the bright Moon period, when observing is difficult enough, but these objects are also faint and fast moving, leaving little impression on each individual CCD pixel that they cross.

Busy skies, part 3

2003 XV observations are reported in today's DOU from Tenagra II Observatory in Arizona from yesterday morning and Great Shefford last night, while OAM pulled in three sets of observations before and after midnight UT, spanning a period of five hours and 35 minutes. See yesterday's news for more about this object, which is a bit smaller than 2003 XJ.

2003 XH10 was announced overnight in MPEC 2003-X31, discovered Thursday morning by LINEAR, which followed it again yesterday morning, and it was confirmed by Great Shefford and OAM this morning. XH10 is similar in size to 2003 XJ7 (on the order of 25 meters wide) and passed Earth yesterday at about seven lunar distances.

Mission news

SIRTF:  The Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) mission reported yesterday:

The first Early Release Observations from SIRTF will be presented at a NASA news conference on Thursday, December 18 at 1:00 pm (EST). The new name for SIRTF will also be announced at that time. The press conference will be televised live on NASA-TV and Webcast

Stardust:  A Stardust mission update issued yesterday reports that "Daily optical navigation imaging begins on Monday."

Trajectory Correction Maneuver 10 was successfully executed on December 3 [placing] Startdust on a trajectory that is a little inside the 300 kilometer flyby distance planned for Comet Wild 2. Three more trajectory correction maneuvers are planned. 

Risk monitoring 6 Dec.

The Saturday Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) has observations of 2003 WD158 from Thursday night from the 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) on La Palma in the Canary Islands, from the next morning from Desert Moon Observatory in New Mexico, and from early today from Consell Observatory in Spain. WD158 had been listed only by NEODyS, and today it was removed from the NEODyS Risk page.

Also reported in today's DOU from the INT on La Palma is observation of 2003 WW26 from Thursday morning, and today both NEODyS and JPL lowered their risk assessments for this object.

From yesterday morning in Arizona, the DOU has observations of 2003 WY153 from Tenagra II Observatory. Today NEODyS slightly raised its WY153 risk assessment and JPL put WY153 back on its Current Risks page with a similar assessment for just one low-rated impact solution in 2071.

Summary Risk Table - sources checked at 0511 UTC, 7 Dec




 2003 XM NEODyS 12/52009-207227-3.74-4.4401.103
JPL 12/52053-20531-5.31-5.3101.083
 2003 XLJPL 12/52096-20992-5.44-5.6001.076
 2003 WY153 NEODyS 12/62071-20711-7.08-7.0806.144
JPL 12/62071-20711-7.08-7.0806.144
 2003 WW26 NEODyS 12/62061-20724-4.61-4.87012.832
JPL 12/62061-20613-4.62-4.89012.832
 2003 WT153 NEODyS 12/52043-208036-6.61-6.9902.501
JPL 12/52044-210340-6.75-7.4102.501
 2003 WGJPL 12/52055-20551-6.10-6.10010.779
 NEODyS 11/29R E M O V E D
 2003 WD158NEODyS 12/6R E M O V E D
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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