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The Asteroid/Comet Connection's daily news journal about asteroids, comets & meteors   –   19-28 February 2005

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[ 2 March 2005 news ]


28 February 2005 - Monday

Errata:  A/CC has received two corrections from the Minor Planet Center about recent reporting. A name change for 6267 Rozhen published online on January 27th was actually corrected on January 31st, not with the February 25th namings as A/CC originally reported below. An explanation was noted on the MPC Status Page at the time, but that and a change in the Discovery Circumstances pages were missed by A/CC. And, as regards program code "4" at the Faulkes Telescope North in Hawaii, it is assigned to Jim Bedient in Hawaii. This code was referenced as "unknown" on the 25th below pertaining to observation of 2004 MN4.

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports that 2005 CC37 yesterday morning and 2004 MN4 last night were observed by Great Shefford Observatory in England. Today JPL lowered its risk assessment for 2005 CC37, and NEODyS, which has only one impact solution for this small object, slightly lowered its already low risk assessment. And NEODyS very slightly lowered its overall risk ratings for 2004 MN4.



27 February 2005 - Sunday

Radar news:  Yesterday's Daily Orbit Update (DOU) MPEC reported radar observation of 25143 Itokawa (1998 SF36) by Goldstone in southern California on 17 June and by Arecibo in Puerto Rico on 19 June of last year. This is in addition to a Goldstone observation reported back in July for this sample-return mission destination (news).
      The DOU also reports observation by Arecibo of 2004 RF84 and 2005 CR37 on February 23rd. JPL's Lance Benner told the Minor Planet Mailing list (MPML) on the 24th that they had also detected 2005 AB by radar the day before. Although "turbine generator problems ... wiped out the remaining time schedule to observe 2005 AB and 2005 CR37 ... it turns out that observing each object on only one night was still very productive."
      He reports that "narrow Doppler broadening" strongly suggests that 2004 RF84 "is a very slow rotator" and observers are encouraged to "to obtain photometry. Slow rotation is often a sign of non-principal axis rotation, so the lightcurves may look irregular." Benner had made an urgent request to the MPML on February 9th for optical observation of this kilometer-size PHA to help prepare for the radar work. It hadn't been reported since New Year's Eve, when it had a 111.781-day observing arc, but it was caught on the February 13th by Robert Hutsebaut using Rent-A-Scope at New Mexico Skies. A message from Benner to Hutsebaut the next day said that his astrometry had "reduced the pointing uncertainties enough for us to point the telescope." 2004 RF84 was also observed on the 20th by Great Shefford Observatory in England and on the 21st early by LINEAR in New Mexico and later by Hamamatsu-Yuto Observatory in Japan.
      2005 AB was a distant and weak target, but "the Doppler-only echoes show the classic signature of a binary system," confirming the lightcurve work of Reddy et al. (report). And 2005 CR37, the year's second amateur-discovered NEA (news), "is an elongated object that appears to have a rotation period in the realm of six hours."

Dutch meeting:  Marco Langbroek sent this report today:

Yesterday, a special event happened in the Netherlands the inaugural meeting of the brand new Dutch Minor Planet Association. The new association is an initiative by Harry Rutten. The meeting was a "trial out" to see whether enough people interested in minor planets could be gathered (the Netherlands is small), to discuss what kind of activities could be done, and what form an association should take. For the moment, it was decided to form an "informal assocation" to see if an association has viability. In the future, there could be a possibility to join the Dutch Asssociation for Astronomy and Meteorology (NVWS) as a minor planet section.
      The inaugural meeting took place in the old observatory at Leiden, the historic spot where the Van Houtens worked. Some 35 people from all over the country gathered. The first part of the day existed of planned lectures, the second part of the day of discussions relating to the founding of the association.
      Following a welcome by Harry Rutten, the day started with a lecture by the grand old lady of Dutch minor planet research, Dr. Van Houten-Groeneveld. She touched on some history of asteroid research, and reminiscensced on the search for asteroids during the fifties to seventies, most notably the P-L surveys by her husband and herself. It was a very entertaining lecture and, for the young people among us (I count myself among these), a reminder of the true monk's work done by these pioneers, as compared to the work we are doing today. It is kind of amazing to realize that I can determine an approximate orbit for a new find in seconds on my laptop today, whereas 40 years ago there was only one computer in the world able to do so. Pioneers like the Van Houtens had to work under such "primitive" conditions and made loads of discoveries, in a very time- and labor-intensive way. Judging from Dr. Van Houten's enthusiasm, this was big fun nevertheless!
      Following Dr Van Houten's lecture, Peter Louwman entertained us with a short potpouri of little asteroid things and facts. After a short address by the president of the Dutch Association for Astronomy and Meteorology, the next lecture was by Thomas Payer from Germany, the second special guest of the day. He spoke about his work in discovering new asteroids and doing NEOCP follow up, as well as his work in asteroid occultations. For the attendants of the meeting, it was a very good example of the kind of work that can be done. Thomas demonstrated some software applications (like Herbert Raab's Astrometrica), and some very nice webcam videos of asteroid occultations. The next lecture was by me, about doing precovery and discovery work using the Skymorph NEAT archives. I hope it showed people that you don't need to have access to an expensive telescope and CCD to do useful work on asteroids. The last lecture of the day was by Detlef Koschny, who touched shortly on his work with Andre Knoefel and Thomas Payer, on his new observatory he is building, and on the Rosetta mission (Detlef works for ESA).
      Then commenced a discussion on the newly to be formed association. It was noted that it seems to cross the fields of several existing sections of the NVWS. So one major point of discussion was whether it was best to join one of the existing sections as a sub-section, or to form an independant section/association. It was decided to form an informal association for the time being, to see if a section/association as such would have viability. This informal association should gather maybe a few times a year. To further contacts among the people interested, a mailing list will be set up in the near future.The new assocation has a spot on the web at (at the moment in Dutch only).
      Personally, I highly enjoyed this initiative by Harry Rutten (with the help of a.o. Eric Bellaard and Niek de Kort), which led to a very entertaining day and hopefully an active association in the future.

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC carried no observations of objects with impact solutions, and at last check there is no other risk monitoring news to report.



26 February 2005 - Saturday

Numbers & names:  Yesterday the Minor Planet Center updated its Numbered Minor Planets Discovery Circumstances pages with 3,752 new numberings, from 96155 1973 HA to 99906 2002 QV53 — just 94 short of requiring a change in MPEC format or coding to allow six-digit numberings. There were also 62 new namings, from 17941 Horbatt (1999 JW2) to 21482 Patashnick (1998 HQ132), all LINEAR discoveries.
      First noticed by A/CC with this namings batch was that 6267 Rozhen, which was publicly renamed 6267 Smolyan on January 25th (news), had gotten its name back, but subsequently it was learned that the Minor Planet Center had corrected this inadvertent change on January 31st.
      A State University of New York at Cortland news release of February 8th tells about the naming of Shoemaker-Levy discovery 27776 Cortland (1992 DH1) by David Levy's wife Wendee for her alma mater. A ceremony was to be held on February 18th in the school's planetarium. See also a report at the Syracuse, New York Post-Standard February 17th, and a AP wire story appeared at some news sites, such as KOLD-TV Tucson, Arizona. This naming was in the batch of last March 5th, but the reason for it was kept quiet until this month.
      The Korea Times has a February 22nd article, "Asteroid Named After Korean":

[Retired diplomat Seo Hyun-seop] said Tuesday that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced the official name of the newly discovered minor planet, "Asteroid (6210) Hyunseop." On Jan. 25, Furukawa Kiichiro, professor at National Astronomical University in Tokyo, discovered the asteroid and filed an application to the IAU for the asteroid's name... Among the roughly 80,000 asteroids ever discovered, a total of 13 asteroids, including 6210 Hyunseop, have been named after Korean figures or symbolic words. 

There are some obvious problems with this report since asteroids are not named less than a month after discovery, and since 6210 is a low number among the almost 100,000 numbered objects that are roughly a third of all known minor planets. Of the elligible numbered objects, only 12,198 have names as of yesterday.
      6210 Hyunseop (1991 AX1) was discovered on 14 January 1991 by M. Matsuyama and K. Watanabe at Kushiro, Japan and was named in the batch that was apparently intended for 25 January announcement but was actually posted two days later (news).

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports observation of 2004 MN4 from Powell Observatory in Kansas yesterday morning and Wildberg Observatory in Germany last night. And today NEODyS very slightly lowered its 2004 MN4 risk assessment.



25 February 2005 - Friday

Risk monitoring:  Yesterday's Daily Orbit Update (DOU) MPEC carried observation of 2004 MN4 from the day before from the Faulkes Telescope North in Hawaii (remote-control user identified with program code "4," later learned to be Jim Bedient), and today's DOU has this object observed from Sandlot Observatory in Kansas early today. The net change in the NEODyS 2004 MN4 risk assessment is to raise it very slightly (JPL is updating its 2004 MN4 risk assessment only at intervals).
      Today's DOU also reports observation of 2005 BS1 with the Spacewatch 0.9m telescope in Arizona on January 18th, adding three positions within the existing 3.132-day observing arc that had had only 22 positions. NEODyS and JPL today slightly raised their low overall risk ratings for this small object.



23 February 2005 - Wednesday

MOS on the Web – Minor object science reporting elsewhere:

  • "ESA's comet chaser to fly by Earth," ESA news release 23 Feb.: "Rosetta will make a fly-by of planet Earth on 4 March 2005 ... and should first become visible to large amateur telescopes around 26 February... This is the first of four planet fly-bys (three times with Earth, once with Mars) that Rosetta will carry out... Sky watchers everywhere are invited to submit their photos of Rosetta passing Earth to ESA's 'Rosetta Up Close' photo contest...
          A few hours before the closest approach the spacecraft will be pointed towards the Moon and the remote sensing and several other instruments will be switched on for calibration purposes. After this fly-by, one of the two Navigation Cameras will be switched on to test Rosetta's ability to track asteroids using the Moon as a 'dummy' asteroid.
  • "Noise makers," Boston, Massachusettes Globe 22 Feb. article: "The technique involves using high-powered air guns to blast powerful, low-frequency sound up to 20 miles into the ocean's crust ... creating the equivalent of a CAT scan of the geological formations below. The Mexico project involves studying the angle of impact of the 120-mile-wide Chicxulub crater."
  • "ESO's Two Observatories Merge," ESO 21 Feb. news release: "On February 1, 2005, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has merged its two observatories, La Silla and Paranal, into ... La Silla Paranal Observatory."
  • "New theory of how planets form finds havens of stability amid turbulence," Indiana University 21 Feb. news release — See the research group's Publications page for preprints of its published results.

U.K. event:  Andre Knoefel tells A/CC that Andy Smith, G7IZU Radio Reflection Detection (UK), has confirmed the time of the Sunday daylight fireball seen over the U.K. (read eyewitness accounts below) as at about 0955:20 UTC, and has posted an image of the signal reflection.
      The only related news media report that has come to A/CC's attention so far, at the Shropshire Star yesterday, tries to turn this into a UFO event.

Risk monitoring:  There was no risk monitoring news yesterday, which is not unusual at the time of the full Moon. Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC carries observations of only four near-Earth asteroids from two observatories, including 2004 MN4, caught by the new Petit Jean Mountain South Observatory of the Arkansas Sky Observatory. Today NEODyS incorporated this new data to very slightly lower its risk assessment. JPL, which today updated its 2004 MN4 risk assessment for the first time since February 10th, used the observation set available as of Monday, and very slightly lowered its risk assessment.



21 February 2005 - Monday

MOS on the Web – Minor object science reporting elsewhere:

  • "Military telescope enlists in doomsday asteroid patrol," CBC News at CBC Edmonton, Alberta 21 Feb. article: "The Calgary telescope has a large field of vision, making it one of fewer than 10 places in the world equipped to search for an asteroid."
  • "Rogue comets," Malaysia Star 21 Feb. article: "[No] interstellar comet has been seen passing through the solar system [and it] has been calculated that on average there is no more than one rogue comet for every 1,500 cubic astronomical units (AU) near the Sun."

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports observation of 2004 MN4 last night by Swedenborg Observatory in Germany, and on 2 and 9 Febuary by Peschiera del Garda Observatory in Italy. Today NEODyS very slightly lowered its risk assessment for this object.



20 February 2005 - Sunday

MOS on the Web – Minor object science reporting elsewhere:

U.K. event:  Andre Knoefel of the Fireball Data Center of the International Meteor Organization (IMO), told A/CC at 1809 UTC:

In the last hours I received some reports of a daylight fireball in the U.K.:

Date: 2005-02-20
Time: 0955...0958 UT
Path from south to northwest.

  • "Bright sunny morning, blue sky, when something caught my eye out of the window. An extremely bright trail, white like magnesium with sparks in its trail of yellow and blue." — Richard White - Monmouth (Wales)
  • "I was talking on my mobile phone and looking in the western sky approximately 280 degrees towards some Poplar trees when I saw a large blue-green object with a white core travel towards 290 degrees the events lasted about 4 seconds. Starting elevation approx 35 degrees finishing elevation 30 degrees. Speed approximation = medium." — Ian Sleight - Stafford
  • "A few seconds before 0955 UTC today, Sunday 20 February I saw what appeared to be a very bright daylight fireball streak low across the western sky. It first caught my eye as a flash of green, and for an instant I thought it was a flash of sunlight off a turning aircraft. It brightened and moved very rapidly and developed a short intensely bright vividly iridescent green trail. It lasted no more than 2 seconds, maybe 3. The trail started about 250° azimuth and ended at 270°-275°, at an elevation of perhaps 6-8 degrees above the horizon. — Stephen Burt - Stratfield Mortimer (West Berkshire)
  • "Very visible in bright sunshine, incredible colours as it broke up,never seen anything like it in my life." — Karl Hibbert - Dunkeswell (Devon)
  • "Object appeared brilliant against clear blue sky in bright sunlight. Fragments were also brilliant and clearly separated. No trail of any sort visible in sky after event. Another witness confirmed colour as blue green and very bright." — Peter Thomson - Bovey Tracey (Devon)
  • "Seen while driving up the off-ramp of the local motorway, heading due west. A clear blue winter morning sky. Very, very bright, brilliant emerald green in colour. [...] Broke into four or five pieces, then faded out. It didn't land. Depending on distance, it could have been over Shropshire or Eastern Mid - Wales. [...] A beautiful experience!" — Peter Griffin - Telford
  • "I was playing golf on Sunday morning 20th Feb. Conditions were very bright sunny, cold, east wind. Playing down the 8th facing west at 9.55am - I saw an intense bright blue light (approx 20-30 degrees to the horizon) in the left field of vision - travelling at high speed in a horizontal slightly downwards trajectory. The object split into two with both objects continuing in a similar trajectory leaving a white trail before disappearing abruptly." — Philip Hemsted - Delamere Forest, Cheshire

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC reports no observations of objects with impact solutions, and there appears to be no other risk monitoring news to report.



19 February 2005 - Saturday

MOS on the Web – Minor object science reporting elsewhere:

Risk monitoring:  Today's Daily Orbit Update MPEC carries observation of 2004 MN4 from Montcabre Observatory in Spain last night and of 2005 CC37 from Great Shefford Observatory in England early this morning. NEODyS updated its 2004 MN4 risk assessment with little change today, and raised its low assessment for 2005 CC37, while JPL slightly lowered it 2005 CC37 assessment.

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