Wednesday7 January 20048:53pm MST2004-01-08 UTC 0353 back top next  

The Asteroid/Comet Connection's
daily news journal about
asteroids, comets, and meteors

Today's issue status: done
  • News briefs – comet ponderings, early Solar System, Stardust, Hayabusa, radar news plus numberings & namings
  • Risk monitoring – NEODyS & JPL have removed 2003 YH136

Cover image: So often here in A/CC Major News, the images we show for asteroids flying past Earth are faint trails or points of light. But, in August 2002, 2002 NY40 [link|alt] blazed a fast path at 1.4 lunar distances, as caught on the 17th by Rafael Ferrando at Pla D'Arguines Observatory in Spain. He notes that this single exposure was “3 minutes with lx200 12" + ST9E + AO-7 (adaptative optics).”

News briefs – part 1/2 Major News for 7 Jan. 2004 back top next  
News briefs

The Denver Rocky Mountain Times editorial yesterday focuses on Saturday's Mars rover landing, but "Let's not forget Stardust, either, the Colorado-built space explorer that a day earlier caught the comet it had been chasing since February 1999."

Once a comet was thought to be a divine messenger that presaged the death of kings or the falling of empires, but in a few years it will be the subject of hands-on Ph.D. dissertations and articles in scientific journals. How humdrum. How miraculous. What a splendid time to be a student, to be able to choose a career studying comet-stuff or building machines that will travel the surface of another planet.

Early Solar System:  A Sky & Telescope article today, "The Sun's Closest Twins," tells about Villanova University astronomers who "think they can learn a lot about our Sun by finding near-twins of it at all the different stages expected in its long lifetime," and says "One result of this work is an appreciation of just how badly our violent young Sun treated its inner planets." See also the abstract and a article.

Stardust DFMI chart

Chart showing sharp bursts in dust activity experienced by the Stardust DFM Instrument during Friday's 81P/Wild 2 flyby, as reported yesterday. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL.

Stardust: has an article today, "Stardust Captures the Best Comet Image Ever," that notes "72 close-up images — only two of which have been shown to the public — are giving scientists a whole new look at the icy, pitted surface of one of the solar systems [sic] most enigmatic objects." And Astrobiology Magazine has an article today, "Museum of the Galaxies," covering yesterday's science news briefing.


News briefs – part 2/2 Major News for 7 Jan. 2004 back top next  

  [continued from part 1]

Hayabusa:  The Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) yesterday posted two news releases dated December 26th, one about the MUSES-C Hayabusa spacecraft, "Ion Engines Aboard 'Hayabusa' Is Very Smooth," and the other about its destination, "Asteroid 'Itokawa,' Target of 'Hayabusa,' Comes in Sight." The spacecraft is reported to have "safely" weathered November's massive solar flares, and stopped firing its ion engines on December 22nd after 8,147 hours of operation, when it achieved its planned speed. Firing is to resume this month to adjust the trajectory for a June Earth gravity-assist flyby.

It is reported that the target asteroid, 25143 Itokawa [link|alt] (1998 SF36), which hadn't been observed since September 2001, was acquired on 1-4 December with the Kiso Observatory 1.05m Schmidt telescope. These observations haven't yet been reported out through the Minor Planet Center, and A/CC noted December 19th ("Itokawa Spotted") that Table Mountain Observatory had been first to pick up 25143 Itokawa on 17-18 December.

Radar news:  Arecibo is scheduled presently for radar observation of 1 Ceres [link|alt] and Saturn's moon, Titan, and is also "piggybacking" observations of 2004 AD, which was announced in MPEC 2004-A23, discovered January 4th by LONEOS and estimated roughly at 50 meters/yards wide. Today Mike Nolan told the Minor Planet Mailing list (MPML) that 2004 AD had been detected today by radar, but only weakly, so the pointing may have been off. "Astrometry by 2004-01-08 0230 UTC would be appreciated." Late word is that at least one observatory delivered help.

Numbers & names:  Today the Minor Planet Center numbered comet P/2003 UD16 as 159P/LONEOS. Two days ago the MPC updated its numbered asteroid Discovery Circumstances pages with 76 new namings, and some will sound familiar to A/CC readers: 51983 Honig (2001 SZ8), 52005 Maik (2002 CL13), 56561 Jaimenomen (2000 JG7), 65100 Birtwhistle (2002 CR15), and 68325 Begues (2001 HO16), as well as 11246 Orvillewright (4250 T-3) and 11247 Wilburwright (4280 T-3). The last numberings and namings were November 5th and December 9th.

Risk monitoring - part 1/1 Major News for 7 Jan. 2004 back top next  
Risk monitoring 7 Jan.

The Wednesday Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) reports observations of 2003 YH136 from Tenagra II Observatory just after 5am local yesterday in Arizona, and today NEODyS and JPL removed their last impact solutions for this half-kilometer object.

The DOU carries observations of 2004 AF from Tenagra II yesterday morning and from this morning from John J. McCarthy Observatory in Connecticut. Today NEODyS cut its impact solution count by 19, to 88 in the years 2008 to 2080, while JPL's count went up by 20, to now 21 in the years 2008 to 2101. However, both lowered their overall risk assessments for this object, and JPL has changed its absolute magnitude calculation such that the size estimate has shrunk by about 435 meters, down to 1.75 km. (1.08 miles).

Summary Risk Table - sources checked at 0233 UTC, 8 Jan




 2004 AFJPL 1/72008-210121-3.37-3.6302.030
 NEODyS 1/72008-207988-2.87-3.4102.03
 2003 YS70 NEODyS 12/282057-20808-7.72-8.1504.992
JPL 12/282057-20856-7.97-8.3704.992
 2003 YH136JPL 1/7R E M O V E D
 2003 YD45JPL 1/32074-20741-6.33-6.33010.354
NEODyS 12/30R 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.
Note that only objects recently in view are shown here.
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