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How to Track an Asteroid

Citizen Science


Tracking an asteroid can require up to 3 separate observations

Your telescope should be able to detect 18th Magnitude Stars in a single exposure Magnitude is a logarithmic measurement of brightness, larger numbers = dimmer stars Midpoint of exposure should be accurate to within 1 second Need the altitude, latitude and longitude of exposure site to within 1 arcminute (1/60 of a degree) Need 3 comparison stars in each image (preferably more) to accurately locate the image in the sky The Minor Planet Center recommends star coordinates from the UCAC-4 Catalog

Taking Measurements

Determine the X & Y coordinates (in pixels) for each comparison star and the minor bodies Perform a Least Squares Plate Constant using your astrometry software to derive coordinates of the minor bodies You need at least 2 observations each night on 2 different days before submitting Submit the coordinates in the appropriate format to the Minor Planet Center If the object is new it will receive a designation code and you may get a chance to name it. Even well known asteroids can benefit from observation!

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