Monday15 March 20046:05pm MST2004-03-16 UTC 0105 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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Cover: Hot off the computer is Bill Yeung's observation of 2003 VB12 Sedna from Desert Eagle Observatory at 0232 UT this morning, in what may be the first imagery caught by an observer who wasn't in on the discovery confirmation effort. See details, and look below for more about this unusual object.

2003 VB12 Sedna – part 1/1 Major News for 15 March 2004 back top next  
2003 VB12 Sedna

2003 VB12 was announced today, first by the IAU Minor Planet Center in MPEC 2004-E45 with a 1244 UT time stamp, and then by the discoverers themselves in a NASA phoned news conference at 1800 UTC (1pm EST). This is the object about which news got out yesterday, named "Sedna" by discoverers Mike Brown and Chad Trujillo. It is large, a "planetoid" judged to be from half the size of Pluto to possibly as large as Pluto. And a debate is underway about whether it should be considered the furthest out "scattered Kuiper Belt object" (SKBO) or the closest (and first known) Oort Cloud member, or something in between.

Brown and Trujillo say that they looked with the 30m IRAM radio telescope in Spain and the Spitzer Space Telescope, and "Sedna was cold enough that it was not detected in either." (See A/CC's Thursday report for more about IRAM and sub/millimeter observing.) They report that Sedna is "redder than anything known in the solar system" except Mars, and they believe it may have a satellite.

2003 VB12 scientific references

News links today

There has been some big confusion over this object's designation. It is 2003 VB12, not VB16. And there is some chaos in news reporting about whether this is a planet (not by first reports), and whether or not it was seen with the Spitzer telescope. Nature Science Update today says "The Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes later confirmed the find." Wrong. Spitzer was unable to see it on four tries, and the first Hubble observation is scheduled for tomorrow.

Finding Sedna – part 1/1 Major News for 15 March 2004 back top next  
Finding Sedna

Bill Yeung observed 2003 VB12 Sedna from Desert Eagle Observatory this morning (cover above and shot at right), capturing what may be the first imagery from someone not privy to the discovery confirmation.

This adventure began when A/CC cross-referenced public documents providing some exact clues as to where in the sky astronomers were looking at some kind of unusual Solar System object. One starting point was a Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report posted Friday by SpaceRef.com that mentions a "Director's Discretionary Target" for "Characterization of a Planetary-sized Body in the Inner Oort Cloud."

Pointing information was passed to Reiner Stoss, who found there was no known large distant object at that location. He decided Bill Yeung was just the guy for the "crazy project" of looking for an almost stationary magnitude 20.7 object without knowing its precise location.

Indeed, Bill was intrigued. By this time it was Saturday night and he might have driven his

Reiner Stoss Astrometrica screen shot from 
Bill Yeung frames of 2003 VB12 Sedna 15 March 2004

portable telescope out from under local weather to take a shot at it, but the next night looked good for observing from his home in Arizona. And so it worked out, with today's cover image centered on 02:32:02 UT this morning.

Details: 0.45m f/2.8 telescope. The imagery here is from an Astrometrica stack of the first six of 20 frames exposed for 240 seconds each. Reiner had to use today's MPEC 2004-E45 to locate the object in the images, because otherwise he couldn't say "for sure if this faint dot was real or not."

News briefs – part 1/1 Major News for 15 March 2004 back top next  
News briefs

Rosetta:  The Rosetta comet mission has a Status Report today on "Initial Commissioning Activities," telling about the "first three instruments (Cosima, Consert and Osiris)" commissionings and the "first payload appendage (Consert antenna)" deployment.

Atmel Corporation has a news release today telling about its participation in the Rosetta mission with megapixel CCD arrays used for the orbiter's UV/IR spectrometer and the lander's six panoramic micro-cameras.

SDSS news:  The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) has a news release today about going public with six terabytes of data, including "two terabytes in an easy to use searchable database" accessible from the SDSS Web site (www.sdss.org/DR2) or from the SkyServer site that is "more attuned to the general public."

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