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Tuesday16 December 20033:13pm MST2003-12-16 UTC 2213
Today's news about Asteroids, Comets & Meteors
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News briefs

New-found:  The Spacewatch 0.9m telescope in Arizona, while watching for threatening near-Earth objects, has found something so far away that its orbit is in resonance with the planet Neptune. 2003 WU172 is a Plutino in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt and is estimated at roughly 150 km. (93 miles) wide. MPEC 2003-Y02 today reports discovery on November 21st, and follow-up using the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope Sunday and this morning.

LINEAR in New Mexico has discovered another near-Earth boulder (about 45 meters/yards wide), 2003 XZ12, one that will be within some 13 lunar distances of Earth during 18-20 December according to MPEC 2003-Y03 today. It was discovered early yesterday and was confirmed this morning by Great Shefford Observatory in England and the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca (OAM). Lowell Observatory shows that, if not so small, 2003 XZ12's Earth minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) would categorize it as potentially hazardous.

Stardust:  The U.K. Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) has a news release on EurekAlert today, "UK scientists all set for New Year encounter with a comet" (images), about Open University Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute (PSSRI) participation in the Stardust Dust Flux Monitor Instrument (DFM, see also).

Robotic observing:  Space.com has an article today, "Artificial Astronomers: Computer Programs that Research While You Wait." It says that astronomers someday will be able to interact through their mobile phones with intelligent agents that can conduct observations autonomously with one or more telescopes. See also an A/CC news item about the eSTAR project and other A/CC robot news.

Dark skies:  The Daily Nebraskan has an article from yesterday about the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) "Saving the Sky" exhibit at the University of Nebraska State Museum Mueller Planetarium until December 29th (news release). The June edition of the IDA Newsletter tells about this new traveling exhibit.


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Risk monitoring 16 Dec.

The Tuesday Daily Orbit Update MPEC carries no new observations for the objects in recent view that have impact solutions, but the Minor Planet Center's Last Observation page is showing the very good news that 2003 WY153 has been caught again, noting that it was observed by Great Shefford Observatory this morning in England.

Summary Risk Table - sources checked at 1925 UTC, 16 Dec

Object

Assessment

Years

VI
PS
cum
PS
max
T
S
Arc 
days
 2003 XMJPL 12/152057-20593-3.83-3.84011.771
 NEODyS 12/152052-20604-4.23-4.24011.771
 2003 WY153 NEODyS 12/72071-20711-7.36-7.3607.918
JPL 12/72071-20711-7.41-7.4107.918
 2003 WT153 NEODyS 12/52043-208036-6.61-6.9902.501
JPL 12/52044-210340-6.75-7.4102.501
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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