Friday23 January 200412:54am MST 24 Jan.2004-01-24 UTC 0754 back top next  

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


Today's issue status: done
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Today's cover image by Rafael Ferrando shows D/1999 S4 (LINEAR) on the evening of 28 July 2000, two days after perihelion. This is the same comet as on January 20th's cover, but with its nucleus now come apart, as explained in IAUC 7467. What appears to be one bright fragment can be seen. Compare this with disruption photos of 57P/du Toit-Neujmin-Delporte and D/1993 F2 (Shoemaker-Levy 9), and also see the Hubble Space Telescope D/1999 S4 (LINEAR) image.

News briefs – part 1/1 Major News for 23 Jan. 2004 back top next  
Hubble news

Reaction builds

Sky & Telescope had some fighting words yesterday about the decision announced by NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe to not service the Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

As news of the cancellation spread among astronomers worldwide, anger began to set in about the way O'Keefe came to his decision — behind closed doors, using the same "top-down" management style that the Columbia Accident Investigation Board blamed in part for the loss of the shuttle Columbia last February. 

The American Astromomical Society (AAS) leadership has taken up the issue and put out a statement last night (U.S. Newswire) that "the AAS supports the congressional call for an independent panel of outside experts to review the decision to limit prematurely the lifespan of the Hubble Space Telescope," and noting that "sustained HST operations are essential to reap the full benefits of NASA's other Great Observatories in space" — Chandra and Spitzer.

There is now a Space Telescope Science Institute FAQ on Hubble's Future. The institute's Newsletter Winter 2004 edition, a 472Kb PDF dated January 21st, has an article, "Science with Two-Gyro Pointing." It explains the outlook for continuing scientific work if two of the remaining four working gyroscopes fail.

Update:  Sky & Telescope posted a political action guide today about "How to Help Hubble."

See A/CC's first report about last Friday's announcement, and news in the days since, about reaction from the public, Congress, and the astronomical community.

Importance to minor object science

To get an idea why all of this matters to minor object science, see the article on "Yet Another Deep Field: The TNO Search Field" in that Winter 2004 STScI Newsletter. It tells about using "the unmatched ability of Hubble to detect point sources to find the faintest — and hence smallest — TNOs," down to about "2 mag fainter than any published ground-based survey" (learn more about those results).

News briefs – part 1/1 Major News for 23 Jan. 2004 back top next  
News briefs

SOHO comet news:  Karl Battams on January 20th announced to the SOHO discovery chat page that the 700th SOHO comet identification had been made, and today exceeded that with another dozen comets discovered up through the 20th of last month.

Vulcanoid search:  A Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) news release today tells about a payload flown on a Black Brant sounding rocket launched from NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility last week (SwRI Boulder preannounced the launch for January 15th). The instrument package included SwRI's high-throughput ultraviolet spectrograph, which targeted Mercury but can also be used to observe comets close to the Sun, and a special camera to search for a theoretical population of "Vulcanoid" asteroids inside the orbit of Mercury. Everything is reported to have worked successfully during the 15-minute flight to an altitude of 263 km. (164 miles, 870,000 ft.), but no description is given of scientific results.

Comet news:  Another asteroidal object has been found exhibiting cometary activity: MPEC 2004-A38 first announced this object January 9th, and MPEC 2004-B35 late today reports new P/2003 SQ215 (NEAT-LONEOS) observations.

NASA's refocus:  An article at the Maryland Gazette today reports about concerns within the Maryland Space Business Roundtable, a trade group, that "the cost of manned flight might mean cuts in the smaller, unmanned scientific missions, which many of the Maryland companies have contracts to support," including the New Horizons mission to Pluto and beyond.

NASA officials position the Hubble Space Telescope issue as one of safety and technical difficulty rather than being the first science mission to lose out to NASA's new prime focus on manned Moon/Mars goals. Same issue or not, Congress has the funding power, and Maryland is home to both the HST and New Horizons, and also to Barbara Mikulski, senior minority member of the Senate committee that oversees NASA funding, and running for re-election this year.

Risk monitoring - part 1/1 Major News for 23 Jan. 2004 back top next  
Risk monitoring 23 Jan.

The Friday Daily Orbit Update MPEC (DOU) has observations of 2004 BV1 from the 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope at La Palma last night in the Canary Islands, and today NEODyS slightly lowered its risk assessment for this object.

Updates #1 & #3:  Friday afternoon in Pasadena, JPL slightly lowered its risk assessment for 2004 BV1. And it re-posted 2004 BJ11, which it and NEODyS had removed yesterday. This listing, with an assessment that showed an observing arc without observations reported in yesterday's DOU (none were in today's DOU), was removed several hours later.

Update #2:  JPL's Current Impact Risks page has added 2004 BG41 with one low-rated impact solution. This object was announced late today in MPEC 2004-B36 as discovered early yesterday by LINEAR, and followed up by Table Mountain and Powell observatories this morning, and by KLENOT tonight. This is a small object, on the order of 30 to 65 meters/yards wide. JPL puts it at 40 meters.

Summary Risk Table - sources checked at 0655 UTC, 24 Jan

Object

Assessment

Years

VI
PS
cum
PS
max
T
S
Arc 
days
 2004 BV1JPL 1/232038-210042-3.59-3.7406.871
 NEODyS 1/232031-20754-5.05-5.1606.871
 2004 BG41JPL 1/242049-20491-5.63-5.6301.574
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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