Sunday, August 16, 2009

FMOs - Fast Moving Asteroids

Things move along at a fairly fast pace in the space time continuim.

Our little blue green planet moves along around the sun and travels even faster with reference to the cosmic background radiation. So next time someone asks you how fast you can run, you can say "almost as fast as Usain Bolt so long as you use the cosmic background radiation as the reference point not the finish line".

Ah I what constitutes fast is an interesting discussion you can have for many hours over a glass of red wine.

From the reference point of earth most Asteroids are found in a number of "belts" between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter and of the roughly half a million discovered currently only 1067 occasionally wander into our neighbourhood. These are classified as PHAs and are defined as Asteroids that have a minimum orbital intersect with earth of <0.05 AU (1AU is the distance from the sun to the earth).

The Minor Planet Centre, International Astronomy Union, Spacewatch and NASA JPL lead the charge in identifying and tracking asteroids, after setting a goal in the 1990s to find 90% of the Asteroids larger than 1Klm within 10 years.

Whilst Astronomers from the LINEAR, LONEOS, NEAT, and the Catalina Sky Survey, do the bulk of the legwork in the northern hemisphere, the Uppsala Telescope at Siding Springs in Western New South Wales, bats well above its weight in covering a good portion of the southern sky.

The Telescopes at Moorook D90 are well postioned to do quick follow up work for the professional Astronomers.

Fast moving asteroids are classed as FMOs, which by virtue of their speed usually mean they are fairly close to earth. Most however are relatively harmless as they are usually very small. The fantastic advances in technique honed over the past two decades, and the better technology now available means that asteroids as small as 4 Metres are regularly detected in the surveys.

On the 14th Aug E12-Siding Springs Survey on the Upsala Telescope detected object 2009 PR1 a 42m near earth object which zipped past earth at 7.9 Lunar distances on the 12 August.

The author captured this shot (above) shortly after it was posted on the MPC Confirmation page.

This Blog is posted as a tribute to all those hard working folks in the Asteroid watch programs around the world.


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