Jan. 2003 Asteroid/Comet News
Updated: 21 December 2003
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6 January 2003
As a new way to study planetary formation in other stellar systems, astronomers at the University of Toronto are theorizing about how to "detect . . . tiny grains of pulverized rock ejected from a disk of dust and debris that commonly surrounds young stars . . . and trace them back to the star system that they came from." To do this, they propose that radar telescopes "examine roughly one million square kilometers of space . . . to detect dust streams coming from nearby stars." One candidate dust stream would be from beta Pictoris.
See also, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Hera mission news: A 6 Jan. University of Arkansas news release reported that "NASA Gives $330,000 To UA Space Center." And, on the 8th, the Fayetteville Morning News reported,
NASA has given the space center at the University of Arkansas $330,000 to develop a robotic collector . . . independent from [the Hera] mission proposal [but its] most critical remaining piece. . . [UA professor Derek] Sears said he thinks the grant is a significant vote of confidence for the mission, but it is not any sort of official endorsement for the proposal.
See an earlier A/CC report for more info and links about the proposed Hera mission.
7 January 2003
A Lawrence-Livermore National Lab news release of 7 Jan. (first posted 8 Jan. on EurekAlert) told about applying a "novel way" to look for trans-Neptunian objects. For more about this, see the TAOS Project (Taiwan-America Occultation Survey).
8 January 2003
Sky & Telescope in an 8 Jan. article, "Did Pluto Take a Punch?," reports that David Tholen and Marc Buie think they have detected in the eccentricity of Charon's orbit evidence of a Pluto impact or close encounter.
On 8 Jan. it was formally announced that 2001 QR322 is the first of its kind, a "Trojan" that shares the orbit of Neptune. MPEC 2003-A55 of 8 Jan. updated 2001 QR322, which was originally announced on 1 Nov. 2001 in MPEC 2001-V11. That circular reported that QR322 was discovered on 21 Aug. 2001 from Cerro Tololo by the Lowell Observatory's Deep Ecliptic Survey (DES) team, and noted the apparent relationship with Neptune.
See also the old and new Deep Ecliptic Survey sites, and the MPC lists of Jupiter and Mars Trojans.
13 January 2003
MPEC 2003-A76 of 13 Jan. reports that ANEOPP has located 2002 NT7 in Palomar plates from 10 July 1954 and 20 July 1990. NT7 had only just recently been removed from low priority on the Spaceguard Central Node's Priority List, where it had been since a couple of weeks after it was pulled from the JPL and NEODyS risk pages early last August.
17 January 2003
MPEC 2003-B06 of 17 Jan. reported precoveries by ANEOPP of PHA 2002 VX94 in 27 Nov. 1986 Palomar plates and 14 Aug. 1996 images from NEAT's Hawaiian telescope. VX94 was on the JPL and NEODyS risk pages briefly in mid-Nov. 2002, and has been reported observed as recently as 16 Jan.
19 January 2003
1994 JX, a Shoemaker-Levy team discovery that had gone unseen since September 1994, was announced on 19 Jan. as having been found by Jim Young the previous day.
28 January 2003
National Geographic has 28 Jan. article, "Comets: How Big A Threat To Earth?"
29 January 2003
2003 BA21, which was announced on 29 Jan., has an eccentric and highly inclined orbit that crosses all the inner planets to reach perihelion initially calculated at 0.1765 AU.
31 January 2003
2003 BC43 was announced on 31 Jan. by the Minor Planet Center with a potential Earth orbit intersection distance of zero ("PHA 0.000D"). That's unusual but not unprecedented in the thousands of such circulars issued since 1993. BC43 has received no special attention on risk monitoring Web pages, although it was posted 3 Feb. to the European Spaceguard Priority List for experienced observers as "Necessary," which was elevated to "Urgent" on the 7th.
Comet update: C/2002 V1 (NEAT)
- Space.com 31 Jan. article tells about brightening viewing prospects for 2002 V1 through 12 Feb., then SOHO C3 viewing 16-20 Feb.
- Sky & Telescope's report on viewing prospects
- Must-see V1 image from 29 Jan. linked from CAST Observatory's Italian-language C/2002 V1 page
- Pepe Manteca's Nuevos Cometas page has images of V1 including details of a 17 Jan. tail disconnection event.
1953 lunar impact debate
Space.com reported 14 Dec. on a paper submitted to Icarus last March by Bonnie Buratti and Lane Johnson about locating in Clementine images a candidate crater for what may have been a witnessed and photographed 1953 lunar impact. This report says an apparently fresh 1.5-km. wide crater has been found, made by an impacting object estimated at 20 meters/yards wide. BBC had a 20 Dec. report.
New Scientist reported 8 Jan. that Earth meteor event expert Peter Brown disagrees with the whole idea of an observed 1953 lunar impact and recent crater identification. And Sky & Telescope's 23 Jan. report sums up the current debate.
A 20 Feb. JPL news release, and ensuing 23 Feb. UPI and 2 March Astronomy.com articles, follow the publication of Buratti and Johnson's article in the January 2003 Icarus 161(1), but without mentioning the recent debate.
What may be the last word (for awhile) about this issue came in Sky and Telescope's 5 March 2003 article, "Lunar Flash Doesn't Pan Out" — "the bright [crater] seen by Clementine also appears in a series of telescopic plates taken decades before Stuart snapped his controversial exposure." The article also states that, "Careful measurement . . . shows that the flare [was centered 30 km.] from the Clementine [crater] candidate." On the other hand, a supportive page was posted on March 7th and remains unchanged at the USGS Astrogeology site, "Lunar Mystery Solved."
Notes: Buratti [not Buratii, as in one report] and Johnson also did a poster at the early Dec. 2002 meeting of the American Geophysical Union (PDF abstract), and made a presentation on this subject at the November 2001 DPS meeting (abstract). For more about lunar mapping, see the Lunar & Planetary Institute's Lunar Atlases and USGS Astrogeology Earth's Moon pages.
2002 AA29 in the news again
A 2 Jan. NASA/JPL news release told about the co-orbital asteroid 2002 AA29, which made a close approach this month. Space.com, Reuters, and Reuters on CNN (with picture) had 3 Jan. reports, and BBC on the 8th. See also earlier news coverage. On the 4th, the Minor Planet Center updated 2002 AA29's orbital information in MPEC 2003-A17 based on observations by Spacewatch during 3-4 Jan.
Floriday Today had an article on 7 Jan. with a very misleading headline: "Asteroid should miss Earth, closest fly-by in century." It will miss Earth, and it is the closest approach in about a century for this particular object, but it's not the closest approach for the Earth, which has had much closer passersby in just the last year.
Australian wildfires – Mt. Stromlo Obs. ravaged, DSN Tidbinbilla OK
Newest headlines first:
See also . . .
- "Mount Stromlo: A Status Report," 17 April Sky & Tel. article
- "Deep Space Network Threatened by Australian Fires," 23 Jan. Space.com article
- "Workers at Australian Site Save Space Antennas from Wildfire," 22 Jan. JPL news release
- "ANU Overwhelmed by Offers of Support," 22 Jan. Australian Natl. Univ. news release (donations)
- "Telescopes may not return to Stromlo," 21 Jan. Canberra Times article
- "Fire destroys Australian observatory," 21 Jan. UPI article
- "Mount Stromlo Observatory Destroyed," 20 Jan. Astronomy.com article
- "ANU already making plans to rebuild Mt Stromlo Observatory," 20 Jan. Canberra Times article
- "$20m bill cost to heavenly research," 20 Jan. Courier-Mail article
- "Firestorms destroy Australian observatory," 20 Jan. New Scientist article
At the observatory, all 80 staff and their families survived. But all six telescopes, a major equipment workshop, several houses and an administration building were completely gutted. The main office buildings, containing computer databases, escaped the blaze.
- "Australia's Mount Stromlo Observatory Destroyed By Fire," SpaceDaily 20 Jan.
- "Astronomy projects in ruins as observatory obliterated," 20 Jan. Sydney Morning Herald article
- "Historic Australian observatory gutted," 20 Jan. BBC article
In just a few hours, a third of Australia's world-class astronomy programme was wiped out [after] staff were given just 20 minutes notice of evacuation and were removed along the single road that leads to Canberra.
- "Aussie Fires Destroy Mount Stromlo Observatory," 19 Jan. Sky & Tel. article
Meanwhile, the wildfires have threatened — but not damaged — NASA's Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla, 40 km southwest of the city.
- "Australia's Mount Stromlo Observatory devastated by bush fires," 19 Jan. Astronomy Online news item
- "Mount Stromlo Observatory Destroyed by Fire," 19 Jan. Australian Natl. Univ. news release
C/2002 X5 (Kudo-Fujikawa) buzzes the Sun
On 16 January on the SOHO chat page, SOHO mission staffer Derek Hammer reported:
[We] have been gearing up for C/2002 X5. Right now we're looking at a few blue and red filter observations an hour in addition to one traditional clear observation. The blue and reds will be used to measure the deflection between the ion and dust tails . . . and to hopefully see a tail discontinuity when the comet crosses the current sheet. Some of these color images will be overexposed on purpose in hopes of bringing out fine detail in the tail.
C/2002 X5 (Kudo-Fujikawa) entered the top of the LASCO C3 view from the SOHO spacecraft beginning with the 25 January 1554 UT image, and exiting part way as of the 31 January 1254 UT image. During the 28th, X5 also passed through the closer-in view of the LASCO C2 instrument.
A/CC 27 Jan. report (20:04 UT): It may have been noise, or C/2002 X5 may have shown a hint of a second tail in the 0454 UT image of 27 January from the SOHO LASCO C3 instrument. That image is shown at below left, trimmed from full 1024-pixel size, and also appears in the middle of the triplet, framed by the images from an hour before (left) and later (right). The other two images seem to show a bulge offset in the same direction that may be further evidence. The only image modification is a quadrupling of the pixels in the triplet to allow showing here enlarged. The original images above and below are courtesy of the SOHO/LASCO consortium, a joint ESA/NASA project. Illustrations by Bill Allen/Columbine, Inc.
SOHO Pick of the Week, 27 Jan.
- "Internet Astronomy: Watch on Web as Comet Kudo Zips around the Sun," 27 Jan. Space.com article
- "Comet Kudo-Fujikawa Rounds the Sun," Sky & Tel. (27?) Jan. article
- Astronomy Picture of the Day for 30 Jan.
- A/CC 29 Jan. report (1706 UT): C/2002 X5, now past perihelion, has taken on an irregular appearance in recent frames from the LASCO C3 instrument, as seen here with the view from 1454 UT on 29 January, shown above right trimmed from full size and also enlarged by quadrupling pixels.
Staffer Derek Hammer's comments to the SOHO chat page on the 30th indicated that the SOHO team doesn't believe an X5 split is evidenced in the images. He said there "is a possibility that the processing is being deceptive." This was subsequently borne out by the posting of additional images at more normal exposures. At right you can see two images with their pixels doubled to show enlarged here. The left image has a 2154 UT time stamp, and the right 15 minutes later. The first exposure, longer presumably to better capture tail detail, appears to show a very irregular central shape. The second image, however, seems to show only a slightly irregular shape. The original images are courtesy of ESA/NASA's joint SOHO mission, illustration work by B.A./Columbine, Inc.
Risk concerns removed during January
Potentially hazardous asteroids removed from the NEODyS and/or JPL risk pages during January 2003 include: 2002 YP2, 2003 AC23, 2003 AD23, 2003 AJ69, 2003 AK73, and 2003 AY2.
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