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Thursday18 December 200310:58pm MST2003-12-19 UTC 0558
Today's news about Asteroids, Comets & Meteors
Page status: done
  • Spitzer Space Telescope – SIRTF gets a name & is declared operational
  • News briefs – meteorite picking, Rosetta & Stardust news, new-found objects
      & a small lost object is recovered
  • Risk monitoring – NEODyS & JPL have removed 2003 WY153
Late news:  JPL has posted 2003 YP1, which was announced just after midnight UT in MPEC 2003-Y22 as having been discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) this morning (Thursday). JPL puts YP1's width at 171 meters/yards.
Spitzer Space Telescope

In a news conference webcast from NASA's James Webb Auditorium in Washington, D.C., NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe announced today that the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) had been named the "Spitzer Space Telescope" (SST) in honor of the late Dr. Lyman Spitzer, Jr., an astrophysicist who was an early and leading advocate of space-based telescopes. For more about him, see his page at the Bruce Medals site.

Following the announcement, a panel reported the first results and showed the first science images from the "now fully operational" telescope, concentrating mainly on galaxy, star nursery, and planetary disk images, which is what most news reports will pick up, but also showing one comet as an example of what might be going on within the planetary disk shown around the star Fomalhaut.

29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 seen with the Spitzer Space Telescope
A first example of Spitzer Space Telescope pictures is this false-color image of comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 seen at 24 microns with the telescope's MIPS instrument. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL, credit to Dale Cruikshank and John Stansberry. Two asteroids also appear, identified as 1996 GM36 (left) and 5238 Naozane, and are slightly elongated by their movement during the exposure. The description says, "With radii of 1.4 and 3.0 kilometers, these are the smallest main-belt asteroids yet measured by infrared means."


News briefs

Meteorite find:  The Statesboro, Georgia Herald has an article today (temporary link, with picture), "Space object lands in Bulloch," and the Associated Press has a related wire story that appeared today at Access North Georgia. They tell about Harold Cannon's bean-harvesting machine in 2000 picking butter beans and an odd rock that was ignored until recently, when "the 5 1/2-pound lump" was tested and "classified as an L-chondrite" meteorite. Another chondrite destroyed a mailbox about 30 miles away, witnessed on 10 December 1984.

Mission news:  The ESA Rosetta Journal has an entry from today, "Rosetta is ready for the New Year," telling about installing insulation and successfully testing the deployment of the spacecraft's re-installed high-gain antenna.

Rosetta activities in Kourou were finished for this year on 3 December 2003. The spacecraft is now in baby-sitting mode and the team size in Kourou has been reduced to the minimum. The activities in Kourou will re-commence with the refuelling activities mid-January next year. 

JPL has an item dated December 16th, "Catching the Wild Child — How Stardust Stays on Target." It says that Stardust was about 9.5 million km. from comet 81P/Wild 2 [link|alt] on the 15th, and closing at "about 530,000 kilometers (330,000 miles) every day."

New-found:  Several new-found asteroidal objects were announced today (see Recent MPECs), including one categorized as potentially hazardous. According to MPEC 2003-Y19, 2003 YL was first spotted yesterday morning by Michael Van Ness at LONEOS in Arizona, and followed up overnight by six other observatories. It is estimated from its brightness to be under 400 meters/yards wide.

Re-found:  MPEC 2003-Y18 reports today that Anne Descour recovered 1998 VS using the Spacewatch 1.8m telescope early yesterday and this morning in Arizona. This small object (on the order of 120 meters/yards wide) was discovered by LINEAR on 10 November 1998 and, according to the NEODyS observation tally, was last seen on the 12th of December that year. If slightly larger, it would be categorized as potentially hazardous.

News briefs, part 2

Binary news:  Ondrejov Observatory has a Binary NEA (65803) 1996 GT page updated December 4th that says (65803) is a record holder in that it has the shortest orbital period [11.90 +/- 0.01 h] of those accurately derived so far [for binary NEAs]. It may be due to a low mutual semimajor axis of the system, high bulk density of the primary, or both. See also a Major News item about the radar side of this work.

Comet news:  The Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams has made public IAUC 8239 telling about the discovery circumstance for C/2003 W1 (LINEAR), which has since been found to have a closed orbit (Major News report), and reporting "the detection of HCN" (hydrogen cyanide) from 2P/Encke [link|alt]. And IAUC 8240 explains the accidental discovery that asteroidal object 2002 LZ11 is cometary

Risk monitoring 18 Dec.

The Thursday Daily Orbit Update MPEC carries observations of 2003 WY153 from Great Shefford and Powell observatories yesterday morning, and today NEODyS and JPL both eliminated their last impact solutions for this small object. The same two observatories, along with MIT's LINEAR program, also reported 2003 XM from early yesterday, and today both risk monitors slightly raised their ratings for this half-kilometer object while cutting down to just two impact solutions, in the years 2057 and 2059.

Summary Risk Table - sources checked at 0127 UTC, 19 Dec




 2003 XM NEODyS 12/182057-20592-3.86-3.87014.032
JPL 12/182057-20592-3.50-3.50014.032
 2003 WY153JPL 12/18R E M O V E D
NEODyS 12/18R E M O V E D
 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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