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Just one more main belt asteroid

Recently, I have been searching archival images obtained by the 2.5 m Apache Point telescope, New Mexico, USA. This CCD imagery was created as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) during September-December 2000-2008. It is perfect source for finding precovery observations of asteroids. In addition, it has been shown that, despite many years past since then, there are many unknown objects still hidden in the archive.

After a period of occasional searching for precovery observations of my SkyMorph/NEAT discoveries, I decided to do systematic work on SDSS images - to chceck field by field from one specific day.

My choice fell on November 11, 2001 with 1524 images in total. I used for astrometry great software programe Astrometrica. To receive more reliable result I integrated MPC Orbit database (MPCORB) from current epoch to date 2001 Nov 11. MPCORB is a database of all numbered and unnumbered asteroids orbits. After this Astrometrica accurately marked positions of asteroids on images, even those discovered recently. I also used the function for automatic detection of moving objects. In addition to the known asteroids, I found many other objects and overall measured positions for more than 1600 "new" bodies.

The advantage of the SDSS archive is that it captured objects around 22 mag. and even slightly dimmer. It would be ideal if these observations could be complemented by other observations from the SkyMorph/NEAT archive. Usually you could not detect asteroids below 20th magnitude in NEAT archive, so most of the objects identified in the SDSS are invisible to NEAT.

pis823 from obs 645, 2001 11.11, moves down. Credit: SDSS

However, this was not the case for my object named pis823. Since it was a relatively bright of 19 magnitude, I thought it could be found in the NEAT archive. When SkyMorph displayed a list of observations, it was promising. To my observation from Nov 11 it found data from 29.10.2001 with brightness of 19.5 mag. After loading the images, I actually found a moving object in close proximity to calculated position by FIND ORB. Moreover the Know Object overlay system did not mark this body as an already known. After measuring and recalculating orbit with added positions, it was clear that I managed to confirm "my discovery". Suddenly I had a 13-days arc from the previous 4.8 minute arc. After next calculation, SkyMorph suggested images from two more nights, 23.10. and 15.10.2001. And in both cases I really found the asteroid.

I had an 18-days arc and in the next phase of my search I examined the database of single-night observations Isolated Tracklet File (ITF). This is a set of data that Minor Planet Center (MPC) could not link to any asteroid from their database. At present, this file contains more than 18 million lines (1.4 GB of data) and it is quite difficult and time consuming to work with. Thanks to David Rankin's handy NEOTK software, you can expand e.g. asteroid with 2 weeks arc to a multi-opposition object. In the first step, the NEOTK program picked up observations from October 23, 2001, which I already found in NEAT archive. Subsequently, I continued to check data back until 1994, but with no result. So I turned in opposite direction and I found one night from 2008 and another from 2017. There was nothing in the more current data until May 2019.

After this I sent the data to the MPC and I am waiting for processing. If the MPC confirms my data, just one more main belt asteroid will be added to our knowledge, so nothing extraordinary. If I am similarly lucky in identifying another asteroid out of that number of more than 1600 "candidates", it is possible that some turn to be something special eg. it will be a Mars-crosser, or even a NEO. Professional observatories discover new objects on daily basis in a big numbers. But for an amateur astronomer without access to new observations, adding one more, even main belt asteroid from archival data, it is quite a decent performance ...

2019 September 12

Second NEA discovered in pro/am and international cooperation

Since 2010 I have been working with astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky to check the observations from the 60-cm Schmidt telescope of Konkoly Observatory, Piszkéstető, Hungary. I receive CCD images of the sky after they are checked by automated detection program for asteroids. Practice has shown that this software is powerful and fast, but the human eye is still more powerful and able to identify other objects.

Every month around the New Moon I was looking forward to new data in order to look for asteroids that have been missed by original processing. When Krisztián, last Thursday, on October 11, contacted me and requested for help, I was pleased and very excited to hunt for new objects. As a result, there were two new asteroids that the search engine did not find. On Friday, I got another batch of images with commentary "In the US and Hawaii there is bad weather, it's worth seeing the images." Three unknown asteroids have been added on that day.

On Saturday morning, when I turned on my computer, it informed me that new CCD images were added for review. Even I was ready to go out for shopping, I decided to look at one starfield before my family were prepared to go. I viewed about a third of the inspected image when I registered a moving object. Moreover, it was not a point, but a short trail. So it was immediately clear what I saw - a near earth object! I opened the Minor Planet Center (MPC) website, entered my observations into NEO Rating tool and it confirmed my assumption – it said 100% NEO Score. I've done another checking with NEOChecker. It did not show any object in observed position for a specific time. So I forwarded the observations to Krisztian and sended him a message on facebook too. He replied almost immediately. As it was evident what I had found for him, he sent the data to the MPC. Soon, an object labeled SaKurSV appeared on NEO Confirmation Page list to allow other observers to confirm its existence.

discovery image of 2018 TY5 , 2018 Oct 11

discovery image of NEA 2018 TY5, 2018 Oct 11, 3x200 sec, L.Kriskovits, Piszkéstető Observatory

Like me, Krisztian was also on his way out with his family for a day trip. He was ready to leave home when he got my message. So the family had to wait for a while. If I sent my email a few minutes later, he would read it only in the evening. Since the discovery observation was two days old, I was afraid whether our object could be found. Krisztian believed he would catch it on Sunday at dawn, when it was in the best position to observe. I was impatiently waiting for the result from Piszkéstető. It was not easy at all. He had to capture 9 adjacent starfields and, on the last one, our „visitor“ was found. Consequently, during the night from Sunday to Monday and thanks to the improved orbital solution, the asteroid was confirmed by several European observatories, from the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Italy and Ukraine, an amateur asteroid hunter Gary Hug from the United States catched it too.

potvrdenie objavu asteroidu 2018 TY5 z 14.10.2018

recovery image 2018 TY5, 2018 Oct 14, 12x30 sec, 4 images stacked in 1 image, Róbert Szakáts, Piszkéstető Observatory

On Monday October 15, less than three days after discovery, the Minor Planet Electronic Circular officially announced new Aten type asteroid, designated as 2018 TY5. Atens are Earth-crossing asteroids and their revolution period is less than 1 year. In the perihelion, some of them get closer to the Sun than Venus. This is the case of this body too. At the time of discovery the new asteroid moved in the constellation of the Taurus, and its brightness was about 19 magnitude. The asteroid is currently approaching Earth and its brightess will increase slightly to 18,5 mag. The closest approach will be on October 22, when it passes us at velocity of 66,000 km/h at a distance of 8 million kilometers, which is almost 21 LD (the Earth-Moon distance). Estimated diameter of this space rock is about 100-225 m, it closest distance from the Sun is 0,456 AU.

The discovery took place on the Budapest-Piszkéstető-Nové Zámky route. Krisztián Sárneczky laid the foundation for this success in Budapest, because he found such an area in the sky which was missed by big sky surveys in the previous days, his colleague Levente Kriskovics in Piszkestető observed selected starfields with a 60-cm Schmidt telescope, and the images after initial checking by the detection software were forwarded to Nové Zámky, Slovakia. The result was the second mutual discovery of the Near Earth Asteroid 2018 TY5. A very important role played another astronomer at Piszkéstető, Róbert Szakáts, who devoted two hours of his observation time to confirm our discovery.

orbit diagram for 2018 TY5, position of asteroid on the day of discovery, 2018 Oct 11

orbit diagram for 2018 TY5 (white line), asteroid revolve between Mercury and Mars, position of asteroid on the day of discovery, 2018 Oct 11. Asteroid moves mostly on its path closer to the Sun then Earth (blue line) and beneath the ecliptic plane. Credit: JPL Small-Body Database Browser

Although I started my hunt for unknown asteroids more than a decade ago, it is still fun for me. No mater whether I search old archival images, current ones from Siding Spring or CCD images from the Piszkésztető observatory. I am always pleased when I find a small dot that moves across motionless stars and which turns out not yet been registered in the minor planet database. After more than one year´s break, this discovery is a good reason to continue this professional/amateur collaboration. I could not wish for a better restart.

2018 October 18

Asteroid (471109) Vladobahýl

At the beginning of January, I received an invitation to the workshop "Slovak Amateur Sky 2017" to talk about my asteroid discoveries. After specifying the topic and the title of the lecture "Asteroid discoveries by amateur astronomers", I thought that I could show the whole process from the discovery to the naming with a little surprise at the end. So I began thinking about the person after I would name my last unnamed asteroid.

I've been thinking about it for a long time, and now the final decision has come - to cheer such a precious person, Vladimir Bahyl. I knew he was going to the workshop and I hoped that I could manage it all in time. I prepared my proposal with citation and in 1 week´s time from the decision I sent it to the Minor Planet Center (MPC). New approved names are published usualy monthly after the full Moon. When I checked the calendar there were 3 months to go until the workshop. On April 12th, 2017 I was very dissappointed reading on MPC website that "There will be no batch of Minor Planet Circulars issued at the April Full Moon". The initial disappointment was replaced by calmness when I learned that new namings would be published. And they were: (471109) Vladobahýl. Preparing the certificate was the easiest thing to do. And keep it all in secret until the last moment ... Finally, surprise succeeded!

Vladimír Bahýl receiving certificate about named asteroid (471109)

I found this minor planet on February 12, 2010. I computed its probable path and observed it on another two nights during the following week. The object was assigned as 2010 CO12 by MPC. Subsequently, the MPC found additional observations from years 1994 and 2002 from their archive, which they had not yet been able linked to. This has greatly improved asteroid´s orbital elements. His favorable position with Earth in 2014 allowed to observe it by several world biggest observatories. In 2015 it was detect only on one night, but next year it was captured by the PanSTARRS for three nights, and just a week later, in August 2016, the MPC assigned the asteroid with permanent number of 471109.

discovery image of asteroid (471109) Vladobahýl, 2010 02. 12

Asteroid (471109) Vladobahýl is a body with a diameter of approximately 1100 meters, it moves around the Sun at a distance of 320 million km with period of 4 years. These days, the asteroid can only be seen with the largest telescopes of the world in Gemini constellation, without any problems it could be captured by e.g. PanSTARRS telescope in the Hawaiian Islands. In an ideal mutual location of Earth and the asteroid itself, you can capture it with CCD camera and telescope of 30 - 50 cm diameter.

2017 Sept 17

Minor planet (7984) Marius

German astronomer Simon Marius lived in the same era as Galileo Galilei, but probably he is not known to many of us at all. Even though Marius suggested names for 4 so called Galilean moons. Simon Marius discovered and observed four biggest Jovian moons independently and at the same time as Galilei. His obsevation was even more detailed. As he reported about it after some time, Galileo accused him of plagiatorism.

German astronomers prepared for 2014 several events to remind the life and work of Simon Marius in the year of 400th anniversary of those events. One of their aim was naming an asteroid after him.

They choosed asteroid 1980 SM, which was discovered by Zdenka Vávrova at Klet Observatory, Czech republic as its preliminary designation was SM, which reminds initials of Marius name. The naming commitee of IAU accepted the proposal, so this object, discovered in 1980, is now known as (7984) Marius.

(7984) Marius observed from Southern hemisphere on 2014 May 5

At the same time, as I learned about this naming from Pierre Leich from Germany, I observed remotely from Siding Spring, Australia (MPC Q62) through system. To my surprise one of the brighter asteroid I observed during my observational session was, totally by chance, the minor planet (7984) Marius. What a good timing, isn´t it?

2014 June 14

Near Earth Asteroid discovered in pro/am and international cooperation

Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky, regularly hunts for asteroids and comets by 60 cm Schmidt telescope of Konkoly Observatory, Piszkéstető, Hungary. Since the autumn of 2010 I cooperate with him and help with the astrometry of acquired images, usually remotely from my home in Nove Zamky, Slovakia, 180 km far from the observatory.

The telescope setup with attached CCD camera produces, depending on season, 20-50 triplets per night with FOV=70´x 70´, which is impossible to check visually. To check one triplet of images requires approx 30-45 minutes. In order to process all images Krisztián uses program Astrometrica, which has also function for moving objects detection. So instead of half an hour or so, it is checked during several minutes.

However we found out that the program, no matter how sophisticated it is, has its limits and does not catch all the moving bodies. The human eye detects about 1 magnitude fainter than Astrometrica and another disadvantage of it is that if there is a star occulted by a moving asteroid, the program would not identify it as a moving object. Usually I am able find from 5 to 10 new asteroids in areas close to the ecliptic, which the identification software missed. As we observe further from the ecliptic plane, there are less moving objects, so the checking work becomes less fun and often I do not find even a single object on such images.

On Friday June 15th Krisztián let me know that new CCD images are to be viewed, but warned me that as he observed far from the ecliptic, certainly there should be just a few asteroids, maybe none ... As it turned out, he was not quite right!

In the evening I downloaded new images, but finally I did not managed to check them. Only after usual family shopping on Saturdays I sat down to my computer and uploaded the first CCD triplet. In the one third of the image I noticed a short dash between the stars, so I stopped the automatic blinking and get through all three pictures manually. Unfortunately it was just an optical flaw as in the other two shots was nothing. I slowly moved on and another trail appeared there again, this time longer one, stronger, and on all three images with a clear shift. It was clear to me what I see at once - a fast moving object, possibly near earth asteroid! Geostationary satellites leave longer trail and are further away from each other.

At that moment I recalled my excitement from late summer of 2005 when I discovered my first NEA 2005 QP87 in the FMO Spacewatch Project. This time, no panic and chaos - I proceeded the things with ease - I did the astrometry and went to the web portal of Minor Planet Center, where in the section NEO Rating you can check whether the observed body could be a NEO. After entering my positions in the empty box, on monitor of the computer promptly jumped the answer - inspected body was with 99% NEO!

New discovered NEO 2012 LG11 There was no need for hesitating anymore, I typed the SMS to Krisztian about the suspected object. Then I sent an e-mail message with attached data, and thirdly, I left a message for him through the skype. Two hours passed and nothing happened. At last my computer announced the answer. Krisztián was absolutely thrilled and then it passed to me too. He immediately forwarded the data to the MPC. In less than an hour it was already published on the NEOCP list , i.e. on list with objects that urgently need further observation. The weather was helpful with totally clear sky, so the Schmidt telescope were directed at the location on the sky were the new cosmic wanderer supposed to be. Over the next 60 minutes Krisztián detected and confirmed our discovery.

Asteroid was quite close to the predicted location. Fortunately with the 18 magnitude bright object 30 seconds exposure was enough to capture it.

The discovery was quickly confirmed by other observers as well - by four observatories. And on Sunday evening, an official report on MPE Circular was published about NEO asteroid 2012 LG11.

Only then I realized what happened - I felt the satisfaction that many hours I spent in front of my PC monitor were useful. Although the asteroid escaped from detection software, it was caught by me. I added 4th Near Earth Asteroid to my "collection" which I started seven years ago. This time, an estimated 600-800 meters sized rock, which would obviously cause problems if it directed into our atmosphere.

Although the sky is routinely and daily monitored by large automatic surveys, discoveries are not restricted only to the big players. Even an amateur in collaboration with professionals can contribute. And the next discovery may happen anytime.

2012 June 20

Asteroid (4178) named in honour of Alexander Mimeev

Russian amateur astronomer Alexander Mimeev is a keen NEAT images reviewer. He is searching for precovery observations of newly discovered asteroids. He contibuted positions for hundreds of new minor planets, which were numbered shorly after their discovery.

So the artificial group of Main Belt asteroids - named after NEAT images reviewers has another member - (4178) Mimeev. To the group belongs those asteroids: (9706) Bouma, (73491) Robmatson, (51983) Hönig, (183294) Langbroek, (52005) Maik, (132798) Kürti, (4858) Vorobjov, (4091) Lowe, (196035) Haraldbill and (234761) Rainerkracht.

2012 May 24

New minor planet 2006 TR130 from Sloan Digital Supernova Survey images

Recently I added to my observatories "collection" from I have discovered new asteroids another one - Apache Point (705) from New Mexico, USA. Sloan Digital Supernova Survey, as it implies from its name, searched for new supernovaes. You can find a lot of asteroid positions there, as astronomers did not measured images for this reason. I search archival images for precovery positions of NEO and MBA and found my first MB asteroid from SDSS: 2006 TR130.

2011 Dec 10

My first remotely discovered asteroid has been numbered: (275264)

I found my find first asteroid from night remotely via RAS observatory in New Mexico, USA. Subsequently it was linked observations from other 4 oppositions so minor planet previously known as a 2010 AB4 got number (275264).

2011 Sep 15

My first discovery from Southern Hemisphere: 2010 JS152

RAS observatory network enables remotely observation not only from Northern Hemisphere but also from "Down Under". I started my observation from Moorook, Australia at the beginning of May. During my follow up observation of minor planet 2007 YA4 I catched up also 1 unknown object. Although following 8 days I could not observe it for second night due the bad weather, I found it on day and it received provisional designation 2010 JS152.

2010 May 30

Meteorite Kosice

Very bright bolide exploded over Central Europe on 28. feb. 2010. Despite of bad wheather two industrial cameras from Hungary catched it so astronomers from Hungary, Slovakia and Czech republic were able to compute its probably place of fall.

As today announced astronomers from Astronomical Institute of Slovak Academy of Science in Stara Lesna(near Skalnate Pleso) international group of astronomers searched for meteorite in predicted area of about 20 km2 last week.

They were succesful and found 64 pieces of it. Biggesst piece has 12 cm and weight 2,19 kg, the smallest is 0,8 cm and only 0,57 g. Astronomers named it after nearby town of Kosice. It is chondrite H5. They estimated it as 1,5 meter small object which exploded 35 km above the ground. It is 6th meteorite found in Slovakia.

Astronomers at press conference
Foto: TASR/Lukáš Furcoň       

Biggest piece of meteorite Košice
Foto: TASR/Lukáš Furcoň

Read more about it: Meterorite Košice
2010 Mar 31

New comet discovery from NEAT images P/2001 Q11 (NEAT)

The comet hunter Maik Meyer from Germany catched an unknown comet from SkyMorph archive. During searching for precovery positions of recent comet he found a new periodic comet P/2001 Q11. There are still many new objects waiting for discovery in NEAT images!

Read more about it by his own words: P/2001 Q11 (NEAT)

2010 Mar 20

My new discoveries from night sky: 2010 EM12 a 2010 EZ21

I would like to follow up some of my discoveries, but with RAS Observatory I cannot reach them. I found out that telescopes of Sierra Stars and Rodeo observatories allow this. So I tried those telescopes and found 2 new asteroids - 2010 EM12 at Sierra Stars (G68) and 2010 EZ21 at Rodeo (H11).

2010 Mar 15

Moje prvé planétky z nočnej oblohy: 2010 AB4 a 2010 AQ39

V októbri minulého roka som začal hľadať asteroidy cez observatórium RAS v Novom Mexiku, USA. Žiadne archívne zábery - ide o on-line pozorovanie na diaľku. Moje prvé dva objavy z nočnej oblohy sa podarili začiatkom januára a dnes už planétky 2010 AB4 a 2010 AQ39 majú pomerne dobre známu dráhu vypočítanú z pozorovaní z rokov 1993-2010 počas 4 opozícií.

12. feb. 2010

Planétky 194262 a 213636 pomenované

Začiatkom decembra komisia pre názvoslovie malých planétok odsúhlasila pomenovania pre dve planétky ktoré som objavil na archívnych záberoch SkyMorph získaných na observatóriu Mt. Palomar/NEAT.

(194 262) Nové Zámky - planétka s provizórnym označením 2001 TE257 bola nazvaná podľa mesta Nové Zámky.

(213 636) Gajdoš - planétka s provizórnym označením 2002 QR122 bola nazvaná podľa dr. Štefan Gajdoša, astronóma z AGO UK v Modre venujúceho sa astrometrii a fotometrii asteroidov a komét.

Zrážka s asteroidom Apophis sa odkladá

Asteroid Aphopis, objavený v roku 2004, ktorý podľa doterajších výpočtov reálne hrozil zrážkou so Zemou v roku 2029 minie Zem v tesnej blízkosti. Astronómom z Jet Propulsion Laboratory v Kalifornii sa pomocou ďaľších pozorovaní podarilo upresniť dráhové elementy planétky a podľa nich pravdepodobnosť zrážky klesla z doterajších 1: 45 000 na 4:1 000 000.