Thursday, August 29, 2013

New chasing old

iTelescope's partnership with University of Arizona's OSIRIS-REx Target Asteroids continues to flourish. There are some 144 amateur astronomer observers around the world, a good number of them are users.

We are just over half way through the current quarter (July-Sept) observing list that was released by Carl Hergenrother. I took a particular interest in Asteroid 2010 AF30 as it was placed about -38 degrees declination which meant it was very well placed for iTelescope's SSO site, and not reachable by northern hemisphere scopes.

On my 4th night collecting data (8th August) on 2013 AF30 it flew through a field with a number of known asteroids in it. Namely: (285839) and 2009 SA302 also in the field were 2 unknown objects. I gathered several nights of careful follow-up and now there are two new preliminary designations 2013 PJ40 and 2013 PL69.

It is always important to check you images for other objects, you may come across other asteroids for which co-ordinates are sought after, you may even stumble across a comet or new object.

If you do come across something interesting the three initial steps I follow are:

1) Update the MPCORB database (before each Astronmetrica session). Note: it pays to close and reopen Astrometrica after you have downloaded the database, before using the known object overlay, just to make sure you are using the latest data and epoch.

2) Take your measured co-ordinates and enter them in the NEO Checker tool on MPC, any nearby objects will be listed

3) Enter your co-ordinates in the NEO Rating tool (note it WON'T be put on the Confirmation list UNLESS the Interest score is over 50. If (as in this case) is a "boring old" main belt object it will have a low interest score and you will need to follow it up yourself, keep submitting data and/or get a collegue to submit some data as well. Eventually one of the surveys will pick it up.

Finally report your data to MPC in the usual way (they recommend using your own designation with a different designation each night eg PL13811 was the designation I used) Note the PL in the designation has nothing to do with my initials its just the number sequence they are currently up to.)

So there is more rewards for participating in the Target Asteroids program than being a part of a great observation mission, you might actually discover something of interest yourself.

There is no guarantee that I will hold the final first opposition designation as these objects could be linked to previous observations, may be lost and never seen again for another 4 years. I only have 7 days arc recorded so far and there is a high probability the object could be lost, given that it was picked up outbound. The part of the sky is less often covered by the big surveys, but is regularly covered by E12, so I will be following them for a couple more weeks and hope that the surveys pick it up as well.

Finally, T30 and T31 are proving to be great telescopes for asteroid work with both of them easily reaching magnitude 20.0 in stacked images. The residuals rms of the 38 positions reported on 2013 PL69 are 0.19 arc secs. After some investigation on the MPC database, Q62 has reported 2500 asteroid positions already and 93% of the reported data has residual rms of sub 1.0 arc-sec. That is really great performance!

Keep up the great work asteroid hunters!!!!!

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