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Updates from Past Recipients of the Shoemaker NEO Grants

Posted by Bruce Betts

17-08-2005 12:00 CDT

Topics: Planetary Society, Planetary Society Projects, Shoemaker NEO Grants, near-Earth asteroids

John Broughton (2002 Grant Winner)
Reedy Creek, Queensland, Australia

Update as of July 28, 2005

Following last year's Potentially Hazardous Asteroid and a few other non-main-belt discoveries, I looked into what improvements I could make to more efficiently image the sky. The major advance involved the design of a 3-lens corrector comprising 2 stock lenses and a custom lens I made myself. Formerly working at f/3.6, the 20" Newtonian now operates at a fast f/2.7 to provide a 1-degree field of view and double the sky coverage. Anything up to 100 square degrees per night can now be covered during clear winter nights.

With such coverage, no longer is it a rare occurrence for unusual objects to show up in my search fields. For instance, so far in July I came across NEOs 2005 NL1, 2005 NY39, 2005 NW44, 2005 NJ63. The retrograde damocloid 2005 NP82 was seen on 2 nights. These sightings came a few days too late for discovery status, excepting 2005 NY39 which became my 3rd NEA discovery. NEO observations overall are now approaching the 3000 mark.

In my other activity, developing a system to accurately time asteroid occultations using CCD drift images, software applications Scantracker and Scanalyser were created to coordinate and measure such observations.

Roy Tucker (2002 Grant Winner)
Tucson, Arizona, USA

Update as of August 3, 2005

I was able to submit in 2004 over 80,000 astrometric measures of asteroids. In August of 2004, I discovered with the MOTESS instrumentation comet C/2004 Q1 (Tucker). In May of this year I reported a fast-moving object as AD8325 and it was listed on the NEOCP. Peter Birtwhistle in England secured follow up images. However, due to unfortunate circumstances, the discovery of Aten object 2005 KA was attributed to the Catalina Sky Survey. I believe this to have been a wrong decision by the Minor Planet Center. However disappointing, I will continue to hunt.

The pointing of the MOTESS array will be changed to +16 degrees declination for the next two years of operation.

David Dixon (2000 Grant Winner)
Jornada Observatory, New Mexico, USA

Update as of July 23, 2005

The observing program at Jornada Observatory, NM has been focused on extended follow up of NEOs after discovery, with the objective of reducing the effort of NEO recovery in subsequent years. In the summer of 2002, Jornada upgraded one of its telescopes to a 0.4-meter telescope combined with a CCD camera provided by the Shoemaker Grant. This upgrade allowed observations of objects dimmer than previously possible. When an NEO can be observed over a longer period following discovery -- at a time when the object is well-located, but is often very dim -- the size of the area that must be searched in a future recovery effort can be significantly reduced.

The upgrade has permitted Jornada Observatory to become a major contributor to the observation of recently discovered NEOs. A July 22, 2005 check of the Minor Planet Center list of dates of last observation showed that only three professional observatories (Spacewatch II, Sliding Springs, and Mt. Hopkins) are credited with the last observation more frequently than Jornada Observatory, for NEOs discovered in 2003 or 2004.

Tabare Gallardo (2000 Grant Winner)
Los Molinos Astronomical Observatory, near Montevideo, Uruguay

Update as of August 17, 2005

Since 2004 OALM has reported approximately 600 astrometries of southern NEOs. Southern objects are the priority of the OALM because they are poorly observed. Several hundreds of astrometries of comets and other asteroids like the ones belonging to the unusual and critical lists from MPC have been also reported.

A photometric study of asteroids was initiated. We obtained asteroid lightcurves, which are used to define rotation period and pole orientation. Recently, our results for asteroid (10142) Sakka were published in the Minor Planet Bulletin.

A photometric study of comets was started by the end of 2004 in order to obtain perihelion lightcurves, which are used to define nongravitational forces acting on the comet. This also allows us to estimate parameters of a comet's nucleus.

Several technical improvements have been done in the observatory. We are in the process of moving the Centurion 0.46 m /f2.8 to a dark area in Maldonado, where a building has been constructed, and dome construction is in progress.

An all-sky camera system was developed to initiate a surveillance of fireballs and meteors. There is a plan to extend this system to other areas of our country.

We succeeded in offering the telescope via the Web to the schools at some special dates. We are working on developing suggestions for laboratory activities for teachers and students. Also for outreach, we developed an automatic system for observation of sunspots.

Herman Mikuz (2000 Grant Winner)
Crni Vrh Observatory, Slovenia

Update as of July 25, 2005

1. Since the last update (March 26, 2004) we discovered 5 more NEOs. Detailed reports on these discoveries and summary of all results are posted on PIKA program web page at

2. We made several hardware and software improvements to the 60-cm Cichocki telescope (now named after the funding benefactor Bruno Cichocki). By far the most important is the implementation of a new method of scanning along the great declination circles. Using the new method we were able to increase the sky coverage by a factor of 2, covering about 22 square degrees per hour using a strategy of three exposures per field of view. The results were more than satisfying: in less than one year of using this mode we found 4 NEOs. More about this scanning technique may be read at on the 60-cm Cichocki telescope page Very few existing modern telescopes of this class are able to use this advanced technique.

3. In order to support remote observations with the 60-cm telescope, we set up a custom made all-sky camera which continuously images the night sky from dusk to dawn. This allows observers to monitor the sky conditions on a remote location in real time. As a by-product, the camera records various transient phenomena like meteors, fireballs, auroras, aircraft and satellite passes. It is in regular operation since August 2004. A movie is automatically composed after each observing session and posted on a publicly accessible all-sky camera archive. A list of interesting events is posted on a separate page. Details about the all-sky camera project, movie archive and list of events can be found on web page

A very interesting all-sky movie, obtained on the night of 2005 Feb. 6/7 shows a bright fireball at -10m that passed over Slovenia. It also shows the 60-cm telescope scanning the sky along the great declination circles, at the time when the NEO asteroid 2005 CC37 was found by S. Maticic, operating the telescope remotely over the internet. Some visitors used the 36-cm telescope that night and slightly interfered the scene with pocket torches.

4. We developed dedicated hardware and software solutions that enable us real-time remote control of the observatory and the telescope. All observations are performed in an unattended robotic mode. Custom made Internet interface to a observation scheduler was recently introduced for more effective and user friendly telescope targeting. Using the weather station and all-sky camera, the overnight weather situation is continuously monitored by a watchdog program. In case of sudden cloud cover, the telescope is automatically parked and the observatory roof closed.

Further links:
Crni Vrh Observatory
60-cm Cichocki telescope

Jana Ticha (2000 Grant Winner)
KLENOT Telescope, South Bohemia, Czech Republic

Update as of July 25, 2005

Thanks to The Planetary Society Shoemaker Grant, the 1.06-meter KLENOT telescope at the Klet Observatory in South Bohemia, Czech Republic was finished in 2002 and regular NEO observations were started under the IAU/MPC code 246.

From March 2002 to July 2005, a total of 9,750 astrometric positions of NEAs have been obtained. Among them more than 400 newly discovered NEAs were confirmed using precise astrometric measurement, 97 Virtual Impactors were measured astrometrically to eliminate their impact solutions (or not) and 16 Near Earth Asteroids were recovered. We placed higher priority on objects fainter than magnitude 19 (up to magnitude 22.0), because they are less likely to be observed by other stations. Another important part of our NEO work is astrometric measurement of radar targets. 27 newly discovered unusual bodies were confirmed to be comets and the duplicity of split comet C/2004 S1 (Van Ness) was detected.

Considering these numbers of follow-up observations, the KLENOT Project is among the most prolific NEO follow-up stations in the world.

Past discoveries at KLENOT include Apollo-type asteroid 2002 LK and Aten-type asteroid 2003 UT55. A further remarkable KLENOT discovery is the unusual asteroid 2004 RT109, which shows a cometary orbit, but has neither coma nor tail.

Distant objects (Trans-Neptunian Objects, Centaurs, Scattered Disk Objects) were also astrometrically measured to lengthen their observed arc.

In addition to astronomical work, the KLENOT Team also participates in outreach activities. It handles about 6,000 visitors to the Klet Observatory every year, and publishes e-zines devoted to asteroid and comet research and (both in the Czech language).

In summer 2005 the reconstruction of the KLENOT dome began. We hope to resume observing in fall 2005.

More info about the KLENOT project can be found at

See other posts from August 2005


Or read more blog entries about: Planetary Society, Planetary Society Projects, Shoemaker NEO Grants, near-Earth asteroids


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