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

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[ 7 February 2005 news ]


6 February 2005 - Sunday  

Risk monitoring:  Today NEODyS posted 2005 CM7 with two very low rated impact solutions. It was announced yesterday in MPEC 2005-C22 as discovered by LINEAR in New Mexico early Friday UT. It was confirmed that night by Wildberg Observatory in Germany and yesterday morning by Powell Observatory in Kansas, Table Mountain Observatory in southern California, and Sabino Canyon Observatory in Arizona. From its brightness, this object is very roughly estimated to be about 20 meters/yards wide. It flew past Earth at 2.7 lunar distances last Tuesday, February 1st.
      Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC doesn't report new observations of 2005 CM7, but it does have positions reported for 2004 MN4 from Friday night from Postel Observatory in Italy, yesterday morning from Farpoint Observatory in Kansas and from Wildberg Observatory, and last night from Drebach Observatory in Germany. And today NEODyS updated it risk assessment with little change, except to cut its impact solution count from 22 to 20 over a period now nine years longer.



5 February 2005 - Saturday

Recovery:  MPEC 2005-C25 today reports the recovery of potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA) 1990 SM and correlation with observations from 1987. From JPL's present magnitude calculation (H=15.95), this object is roughly estimated by standard formula at 2.19 km. (1.36 miles) wide. It was discovered by Rob McNaught while reviewing photographic plates exposed on 22 September 1990 at the 1.2m U.K. Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia, and was announced two days later in an IAU Circular. It was last observed on 16 October that year and wasn't reported again until picked up early yesterday UT by Jim Scotti with the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope in Arizona, and by Jim Young at Table Mountain Observatory in southern California early today. And the MPEC now equates this object with observations from Mt. Palomar on 28 September 1987.

FMOP news:  MPEC 2005-C21 today, which announced discovery of an unrelated asteroid, contains this: "Corrigendum. On MPEC 2005-C16 the name of S. Foglia should be added as an observer at code 691." That's for small object 2005 CK, about which see more below.

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update (DOU) MPEC reports observation of 2005 AH14 early yesterday UT from Farpoint Observatory in Kansas. This added four positions and 17.307 days to what had been only 37 positions over a 10.659-day observing arc for this kilometer-size object. JPL removed its impact solutions in mid-January, and today NEODyS removed its last two. (This large PHA for some reason has yet to appear on the SCN Priority List, but the Minor Planet Center today puts its orbital uncertainty at U=7 and says observations are "Desirable between 2005 Feb. 5-19," when its brightness goes from V=19.3 to 19.0.)
      The DOU also has observations of 2005 CM from yesterday morning from LINEAR in New Mexico, from the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope in Arizona, and from Robert Hutsebaut in Belgium using Rent-A-Scope at New Mexico Skies. Today JPL and NEODyS removed their remaining impact solutions for this small object.
      And the DOU reports observations of 2004 MN4 Thursday night from San Marcello Pistoiese Observatory in Italy and early yesterday from Desert Moon Observatory in New Mexico and Farpoint Observatory. Today NEODyS very slightly raised its risk assessment, and increased its impact solution count by about a third, from 16 to 22.



4 February 2005 - Friday

MOS on the Web – Minor object science reports elsewhere:

  • "What's the best-kept secret in New Milford?," New Milford, Connecticut Times 4 Feb. article: "Second Saturdays [is] a monthly program focused on the use of the building's three telescopes to learn about astronomy, asteroids, the planets and [John J. McCarthy Observatory's] ongoing research."
  • "Observe the Deep Impact Spacecraft Close In On Comet Tempel 1," an interactive Java orbit viewer posted at JPL 3 Feb. showing the Solar System and the Deep Impact flyby and impactor spacecraft that will encounter comet 9P/Tempel 1 on July 4th this year — "If the [flyby] spacecraft is healthy and if NASA is able to grant the necessary permission and resources, the spacecraft could then be re-targeted for another cometary flyby by using [a January 2008] Earth encounter to re-shape the spacecraft's trajectory."
  • "Replacing Hubble," 3 Feb. article: "HOP [Hubble Origins Probe] can be developed quickly at significant savings and low risk ... by replicating a successful design and using existing instruments."

FMOP news:  According the the Spacewatch FMO Program's discoveries page, online volunteer Sergio Foglia in Italy gets the credit for the discovery of small object 2005 CK, which was announced yesterday in MPEC 2005-C16 as discovered by Spacewatch astronomer Jim Scotti. The FMOP news page today is still showing Foglia's discovery with temporary designation SW40Ku, which the MPC Previous NEO Confirmation Page Objects page correlates with 2005 CK. See more below.

Risk monitoring:  The newest posting of an object with impact solutions is for 2005 CM, which was announced yesterday in MPEC 2005-C12 as discovered Wednesday morning by LINEAR in New Mexico and confirmed yesterday morning from Powell Observatory in Kansas and Table Mountain Observatory in southern California. JPL, which estimates this object's diameter at 70 meters/yards, posted it with impact solutions yesterday. Today's DOU reports observations yesterday morning from LINEAR and from Robert Hutsebaut with Rent-A-Scope at New Mexico Skies, and today NEODyS posted this object with impact solutions.
      Observations of 2004 MN4 were reported in yesterday's DOU from Consell Observatory in Spain Tuesday night. Today's DOU reports the already public radar observations from Arecibo in Puerto Rico on 27, 29, and 30 January as well as observations from George Observatory in Texas on January 14th. NEODyS has updated its 2004 MN4 risk assessment with the new optical observations in those DOUs, with very slight changes in its overall risk ratings. It now has just three impact solutions rated at Torino Scale 1 (a routine alert that an object "merits special monitoring"), for 13 or 14 April in the years 2035 to 2037. JPL continued to work yesterday with the observation arc available as of the day before, and updated its risk assessment twice, slightly lowering its overall risk ratings for 2004 MN4. Part of that ratings reduction came from revising this object's diameter estimate from just under a half, to about a third, of a kilometer. With the newly available optical data, JPL today very slightly raised its ratings.
      JPL posted a statement yesterday, "Radar Observations Refine the Future Motion of Asteroid 2004 MN4," telling that the flyby on Friday the 13th of April 2029 will be visible to the naked eye, approaching "just below the altitude of geosynchronous Earth satellites," and will miss the Moon by a somewhat greater distance, but the asteroid's path afterward "is very sensitive to the circumstances of the close approach itself and a number of future Earth close approaches... However, our current risk analysis for 2004 MN4 indicates that no subsequent Earth encounters in the 21st century are of concern."
      Thanks to Stu Megan who helped with this report.

News reports



2 February 2005 - Wednesday

MOS on the Web – Minor object science reporting elsewhere:

  • "Storm heralds coldest February day," Australian 3 Feb. article: "A FREAK clap of thunder exploded over Melbourne early yesterday, waking thousands of sleeping residents across a 90km zone... [It] generated a flurry of theories over what caused it - from an earthquake to a sonic boom from a jet, or even a meteor."
  • "GRBs spark protoplanetary lightning," 2 Feb. article: "Solar-system-scale lightning storms triggered by gamma-ray bursts may be responsible for a key feature of stony meteorites... McBreen is eager to see the theory tested by comparing the formation time of chondrules in different meteorites, and by observers scanning nearby galaxies for the infrared flashes the theory predicts."
  • "SOHO Comet Catcher," Sky & Telescope 1 Feb. article: "SOHO No. 900 was discovered by [Rainer Kracht, who] has discovered 138 SOHO comets, including SOHO No. 500."
  • "February Geology and GSA Today media highlights," Geological Society of America news release at EurekAlert 1 Feb.: Presents abstracts on papers about "Basinward transport of Chicxulub ejecta by tsunami-induced backflow, La Popa basin, northeastern Mexico, and its implications for distribution of impact-related deposits flanking the Gulf of Mexico," and "Geochemical signatures of Archean to Early Proterozoic Maria-scale oceanic impact basins."
  • "Bright Idea: Ancient monster tsunami mixed fossils," Albuquerque, New Mexico Tribune 31 Jan. article: Tells about problems in dating the Chicxulub impact structure. See item above for the academic reference.

Rosetta news:  ESA's Rosetta mission on January 31st posted an unnumbered status report for the period of 17-27 January, the first since report #34 of November 19th for the period 28 October-19 November. The unreported period of 20 November to 16 January was to include a "small" trajectory correction maneuver on November 25th, the SREM (Standard Radiation Environment Monitor) has been "kept activated for background radiation monitoring," and a minor problem was detected in a star tracker during December, but otherwise the spacecraft has been in quiet "cruise mode" and "All other instruments are inactive." During the latest period, the comet orbiter's OSIRIS imager "took pictures of comet Macholtz" on January 20th when activated to test a software update, and there was some work related to the star tracker and communication testing.

FMOP news:  The object with Spacewatch temporary designation SW40Ku currently on the MPC NEO Confirmation Page (NEOCP), was discovered by FMO Project online volunteer Sergio Foglia this morning and added at "Feb. 2.44 UT."

Risk monitoring:  NEODyS today updated its 2004 MN4 risk assessment based on the recently reported Arecibo radar data plus new optical observations reported in today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC from Wildberg Observatory in Germany last night. NEODyS has cut from 31 impact solutions in the years 2044 to 2079 to 16 in 2034-2065, but has raised its overall risk ratings, and puts four April solutions in the years 2035-37 and 2046 at Torino Scale 1 (a routine alert that an object "merits special monitoring"), where most recently both NEODyS and JPL had had only two solutions rated at TS-1, in April of 2044 and 2053. This statement was posted on the NEODyS Risk page today:

The asteroid 2004 MN4 will have a very close approach to Earth in 2029. The observations collected in the months of December 2004 and January 2005 by professional and amateur astronomers have provided enough information to exclude the possibility of an impact in 2029. At the end of January 2005, radar observations performed at Arecibo have led to a substantial improvement of the orbit; as a consequence, the list of post-2029 Virtual Impactors has changed. The coworkers of NEODyS/CLOMON2 will continue to process additional observational data as they become available, with the aim of removing the remaining Virtual Impactors as soon as possible. 

      The NEODyS risk assessment runs only through the year 2080, while the JPL assessment, when it becomes available, will cover the next hundred years, and there may be a statement about later centuries. The highest rated impact solution derived from radar data so far has been for 29075 1950 DA [alt. link], which has a solution for the North Atlantic Ocean with a positive Palermo Scale rating on 16 March 2880 — "the only known asteroid whose hazard could be above the background level" (that is, it is slightly more likely to hit than some random as-yet undetected object, which itself is statistically very unlikely for the near future). See JPL's Asteroid 1950 DA page for more about this kilometer-plus diameter object and what it tells us about the challenges of the risk monitoring process.

Update: At just before noon in Pasadena, JPL has updated its 2004 MN4 risk assessment, cutting its impact solution count from 25 in the years 2044 to 2103 to seven in 2035-2054, well inside the NEODyS time horizon, and appearing to raise its overall risk ratings higher than those at NEODyS, but a corrected version of the assessment put JPL's ratings at about the same level. Of the seven JPL solutions, four are rated at TS-1 like at NEODyS, for April in the years 2035-37 and 2046.



1 February 2005 - Tuesday  

Bad reporting:  It might be better left alone without comment, but an A/CC reader has inquired about the validity of a news article dated January 18th at India Daily with the headline "Computer model predicts 150 sq. mile asteroid to hit earth in 65 years – wipe out human civilization like that of Dinosaurs." This first came to A/CC's attention with a report at today, "Computer models predict disastrous asteroid impact in 2070." There are several aspects of this report that flag it as bogus to experienced followers of NEO news. First is the vagueness about data, since such a prediction (and size determination) could only come from very explicit observational data. Another flag is the statement that the asteroid is "not from Solar System." While our Solar System may well have minor objects that originated elsewhere, nothing larger than dust particles has yet been shown to have definitely come from outside. And one more flag is that any observing facility capable of making such supposed observations would involve astronomers who are quite aware of the International Astronomical Union, which has protocols for reviewing the data in advance of any public statement about a severe impact hazard.

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports no observations of objects with impact solutions. There was no updating of 2004 MN4 risk assessments overnight (see news yesterday), but NEODyS has now posted the radar data from Arecibo observations on 27, 29, and 30 January.

[ previous news: 31 January 2005 ]   [ top ]
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