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The Asteroid/Comet Connection's daily news journal about asteroids, comets & meteors   –   1-6 January 2005

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[ 7 January 2005 news ]


6 January 2005 - Thursday

Wisconsin event:  There is a report today at the Wausau Daily Herald with more information about the fireball that was widely witnessed over north-central and northeastern Wisconsin Tuesday evening. And WAOW-TV Wausau said yesterday that it was loggers who reported "a glow from a fire" after the event, but searchers "couldn't find the source of the glow." See more reports below.

Precovery:  MPEC 2005-A10 yesterday reports that Reiner Stoss has located the distant unusual object 2004 PA44 in the image archives from NEAT's Mt. Palomar telescope from 3 and 15 April 2002 and its Haleakala telescope from 29 April 2003 and 2 May 2004. This object was discovered by NEAT at Mt. Palomar on 7 August 2004 and had already been linked to prediscovery observations by LINEAR in New Mexico from 11 and 18 July 2004. LINEAR confirmed the discovery on 11 August, as did CINEOS in Italy on the 11 and 13th, and the object was next (and last) caught on November 8th with the Australian National University 1m telescope. 2004 PA44 was first reported in MPECs in the Daily Orbit Update of 15 August 2004, and didn't receive a discovery MPEC. It is estimated very roughly at 6.5 km. (4.0 miles) wide from its brightness (H=13.6), but could me more than twice as large if it is a typically dark comet nucleus. And it travels a low-inclined path (i=3.3°) that crosses the orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus.

Comet news:  Science@NASA has an article from yesterday, "Green Comet," about C/2004 Q2 (Machholz), which is now at its brightest and passing near the Pleiades. "Comets are, basically, asteroids made of dusty dirty ice... [Its] coma contains cyanogen (CN), a poisonous gas, and diatomic carbon (C2)... [Both] glow green when illuminated by sunlight."

Deep Impact:  NASA issued a news release yesterday stating that the "Deep Impact spacecraft is scheduled to launch on Jan. 12, 2005, at about 1:48 p.m. EST," and announcing that "the prelaunch press conference is at the NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) News Center at 1 p.m. EST Tuesday, Jan. 11." Media event and launch will be broadcast on NASA TV. An article at the Christian Science Monitor today previews the mission.

DSN news:  SpaceDaily has an item from January 4th about NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) and especially its Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) at Tidbinbilla, Australia. A locally-developed system, Multiple Spacecraft Per Aperture, now allows receiving simultaneously from two and eventually three spacecraft near each other by line of sight from Earth, such as orbiting Mars. Setup has also been streamlined to speed reconfiguration for communication sessions with different spacecraft.

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports observation of 2004 MN4 from Europe on January 1st and 4th, yesterday from North Ryde Observatory in Australia and Pla D'Arguines Observatory in Spain, and early today by Jeffrey Sue in Hawaii, working via Rent-A-Scope at New Mexico Skies. Pla D'Arguines also caught 2004 VD17 last night.
      Today NEODyS slightly lowered its overall risk ratings for 2004 MN4, moving toward to JPL's ratings, which were very slightly raised today. And both risk monitors again slightly raised their risk assessments for 2004 VD17.



5 January 2005 - Wednesday

Wisconsin event:  An apparent bolide is reported from last night over northeastern Wisconsin a bit after 6pm.

Meteor news:  The biggest show for meteorite collectors, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, will be held 10-13 February this year, but there are also a bunch of other shows happening around the state this month, as you can learn more about on the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources' show list. One of these, in Globe on 14-16 January, is told about in an item at the Globe Silver Belt yesterday. It says, "Arizona State University is scheduled to display a portion of their meteorite collection [along with] a display of meteorites collected by Ray Rhodes."

Naming:  In an item yesterday, icWales tells about "An 'exceptional' Welsh astronomy student has had an asteroid named after him, three years after his death," and quotes Gavin Roderick's mother about how "It was quite a process, much more complicated than naming a star. I had to contact people at the Minor Planet Centre in the USA and the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature for ratification." (She was apparently referring to what are actually phony star naming schemes.) The article only identifies the asteroid as "discovered in 2000 by the Lowell Observatory near-Earth Object search," but this all appears to match Main Belter 16194 Roderick (2000 AJ231), which was in the November 22nd namings batch (news).

Bits & pieces:  The Coolidge, Arizona Examiner has an item today telling about the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), and about how a local company, AC Lighting and Design, "has become the first indoor and outdoor residential and commercial fixture manufacturing business to receive IDA approval."
      National Geographic has an article today, "Comet Facts: From Black Death to Deep Impact."
      CNN has a Reuters wire story today reporting that "MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd said Wednesday it has signed a $154 million deal to help NASA's controversial repair mission to fix the aging Hubble Space Telescope [using] Canadian robot technology." See also a Canadian Space Agency 5 January news release and a 5 January report.
      ESA has an item from December 24th answering the question, "What are Lagrange points?" The SOHO spacecraft, for instance, is at Sun-Earth L1, inside Earth's orbit, while Gaia and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) are designed for L2, outside Earth's orbit, and the Spitzer Space Telescope (SST) trails Earth at L4. And proposals have been floated to put a lunar way station at Earth-Moon L1, and an NEO survey telescope at Sun-Venus L4. There may be asteroids ("Trojans") sharing Earth's orbit at L4 and L5, but they would be hard to spot from ground-based observatories, and searches have not yet found any.

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC carries observations of three objects with impact solutions, with 2004 MN4 reported from four observatories in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland from 30 December and 3 and 4 January. And Great Shefford Observatory in England reported 2004 VD17 from last night and 2005 AC from this morning.
      Today NEODyS removed all of its impact solutions for 2005 AC. JPL, which didn't update on yesterday's new data for 2004 MN4, today very slightly lowered its MN4 risk assessment, while 2004 MN4's ratings at NEODyS hardly changed. Both risk monitors today slightly raised their risk ratings for 2004 VD17.



4 January 2005 - Tuesday

Deep Impact:  The University of Arizona has a news release from yesterday about briefly previewing the Deep Impact comet mission and mentioning participation in the science team by UA's Jay Melosh, " [the] scientist who wrote the book on planetary impact cratering."

Risk monitoring:  NEODyS today posted 2005 AC with a few low-rated impact solutions. This object was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) in Arizona on New Year's Day morning, was confirmed by Great Shefford Observatory in England early on the 2nd and 3rd, and was announced yesterday in MPEC 2005-A07.
      Today's Daily Orbit Update (DOU) MPEC carries observations of 2004 MN4 from last night from Jurassien-Vicques and Naef observatories in Switzerland and from Santa Lucia Stroncone and Sormano observatories in Italy. And Sormano also caught 2004 VD17 last night.
      Today NEODyS very slightly raised its risk assessment for 2004 MN4, and it and JPL slightly lowered their assessments for 2004 VD17. NEODyS Pisa had been off-line over the holiday (see news Friday), but came back online yesterday.



3 January 2005 - Monday

Naming:  The Greater Sudbury, Ontario News has an article from yesterday about the naming of Main Belter 13822 Stevedodson (1999 VV17) for teacher and astronomy promoter Steve Dodson "because of his work in helping to measure the size and shape of Vesta." Although the piece says that this was 2004 news, the naming was in the 12 June 2003 batch.

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update (DOU) MPEC carries observations of 2004 MN4 from yesterday and from the day before by four European observing facilities and one in the U.S. Crespadoro Observatory in Italy and Marxuquera Observatory in Spain also reported 2004 VD17 from last night. JPL's 2004 MN4 risk assessment today is almost unchanged, and NEODyS very slightly lowered its overall ratings for this object.
      Both risk monitors today slightly raised their risk assessments for 2004 VD17, an object on the risk lists since November 9th that is estimated to be somewhat larger than 2004 MN4 and that now has higher ratings than MN4, and has more impact solutions rated at Torino Scale 1 (a routine alert that an object "merits special monitoring"), in the years 2091 and 2102.
      We were going to report that JPL hadn't updated yet on new data from yesterday for the very low-rated 2004 XM29, but it turns out that an update was issued yesterday. The ratings were completely unchanged, however, and thus the update wasn't noted by the script that assembles A/CC's CRT page and informs A/CC news reporting. Unchanged updates are rare, but, still, that's a programming glitch that needs to be fixed here at A/CC.'s online journal, The Space Review, has an article today by aerospace engineer Tom Hill arguing for "Revising the Torino Scale" in ways for which he presents his "initial thoughts." (According to his site, Hill also wants "a snazzier name" for 2004 MN4 soon, and seeks suggestions to send to the IAU, although that's not how the naming process works.) Among those actually involved in the analysis of impact risks, there are experts who also would like to change or replace the Torino Scale. A proposal by the IAU Minor Planet Center's Brian Marsden, for instance, was explained in Cambridge Conference Correspondence for 12 September 2003 (see "Interpreting Short-Arc Orbits").



2 January 2005 - Sunday

MPC news:  By A/CC's tally, the IAU Minor Planet Center issued 1,659 Minor Planet Electronic Circulars in 2004, which is up from the previous high of 1,617 last year, which was only two more than the year before. And the year-ending total count since the first was issued in September 1993 (MPEC 1993-S01) was 9,936. For the year 1996, when the first discovery MPEC was issued for an object found by the LINEAR survey, 207 MPECs were issued. The first Daily Orbit Update (DOU) MPEC was published on 16 December 1997, as announced in MPEC 1997-X17, and LINEAR became fully operational in early 1998, so the first full year with both LINEAR and daily DOUs was 1999, which saw 899 MPECs issued, a bit more than half the count for 2004.

Readings:  Many news sites are carrying an Associated Press wire story previewing the Deep Impact comet mission, such as at CNN yesterday, "NASA can't wait to smash spacecraft."
      The Richmond, Virginia Times-Dispatch has an article from today telling about the mile-high tsunami that hit the central eastern coast of North American 35 million years ago as the result of the impact that formed the Chesapeake Bay impact structure (Index).
      SF Crowsnest has an interview with space artist David Hardy posted yesterday. Among his works are illustrations for European Space Agency news releases, some having to do with minor object science, including an image used by A/CC August 6th.
      It was one year ago today that NASA's Stardust mission flew past its comet target. See news reports January 2nd, 6th, and 9th, and June 17th.

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC carries observation of three objects with impact solutions. 2004 MN4 was observed from Japan on December 29th, Australia and Italy on the 31st, New Mexico yesterday morning, and Spain last night. Today JPL very slightly, and NEODyS slightly, raised their overall risk ratings for this object.
      2004 VD17 was reported from last night from Great Shefford Observatory in England and Pla D'Arguines Observatory in Spain, and 2004 XM29 is reported from San Marcello Pistoiese Observatory in Italy from the night of December 31st. NEODyS today slightly raised its risk assessment for 2004 VD17 and left its 2004 XM29 ratings almost unchanged. At last check, JPL hasn't yet updated its assessments for these two objects.

Update:  NEODyS has added a TS-1 flag (a routine alert that an object "merits special monitoring") to its 2004 MN4 assessment for an impact solution in 2053, something that was missing earlier.



1 January 2005 - Saturday

Risk monitoring:  The first Daily Orbit Update MPEC of the year carries observations of three objects that have impact solutions. CEAMIG-REA Observatory in Brazil reported 2004 MN4 from early yesterday, within the existing observing arc. Today JPL lowered its overall risk assessment, while NEODyS only very slightly lowered it ratings. JPL later revised its assessment back up to where its overall ratings were yesterday, except for increasing its impact solution count by three.
      2004 XM29 was observed yesterday morning by Desert Moon Observatory in New Mexico and Powell Observatory in Kansas, and last night by Great Shefford Observatory in England. Today NEODyS reposted this object with two very low-rated impact solutions, and JPL slightly lowered its very low-rated single solution for this small object. And JPL very slightly lowered its overall ratings for 2004 XP14, following observation yesterday by Reedy Creek Observatory in Queensland, Australia.

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