[meteorite-list] Rosetta gravity assist flyby

From: lebofsky at lpl.arizona.edu <lebofsky_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 19:33:24 -0700 (MST)
Message-ID: <2305.>

Hello Doug:

I take exception to your comments that this was either a screw-up or a
joke. These are hard-working dedicated people, most of whom I have known
for 20-30 years.

I do not know all of the details, but when a "discovery" is made, the
discoverers have access to a very large database of Small Solar System
Bodies (asteroids and comets). Generally, things in orbit around the Earth
have distinct enough orbits so that they are easily recognized. Not so for
objects in heliocentric orbits (orbiting the Sun). In this case, an object
was seen that appeared to be a Near-Earth Object that was about to make a
close approach to the Earth and for which the database did not have the
orbital elements. Thus, it was at first considered to be a new discovery.

There are nearly 500,000 known asteroids (many with poorly known orbits)
and about 5000 new ones are being discovered every month! Maintaining this
database is not an easy task.

Obviously, someone fairly quickly realized that this was not an asteroid,
but Rosetta, but not before the alert went out for astronomers to make
observations. The system worked!

What did not work, as was pointed out by the Minor Planet Center, was that
unless there is someone who is in a position to provide them with the
orbital elements of Rosetta, there is no way that they can put this into
their database. This is where the system failed. Actually it is impressive
that the Catalina Survey people did see this "incoming asteroid" and shows
how well they are covering the sky in order to locate any asteroids
heading toward the Earth.

However, Doug, Pluto and the IAU decision is another story that we should
discuss over beers sometime.

Larry Lebofsky

On Mon, November 12, 2007 6:51 pm, mexicodoug wrote:
> Hi Darren,
> It certainly was an actual screw-up by the IAU. The joke I meant was by
> Catalina Sky Survey, no matter what they say. You deserve a medal. Just
> tell us you didn't look in the back of the book (or leave a Google crumb
> path)! Clyde Tombaugh is is snickering in his grave at the foolish
> bureaucracy that was arrogant enough to strip a true astronomer of his
> life's crowning achievement to play word footsies...
> Best wishes,
> Doug.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Darren Garrison" <cynapse at charter.net>
> To: <meteorite-list at meteoritecentral.com>
> Sent: Monday, November 12, 2007 6:13 PM
> Subject: Re: [meteorite-list] Rosetta gravity assist flyby
>> On Fri, 9 Nov 2007 12:35:28 -0600, you wrote:
>>> Someone has a sense of humour, especially the flying couch comment !
>> Looks like it might have been an actual screw-up, not just a joke.
>> http://blogs.smh.com.au/sit/archives/2007/11/alarm_astronomers_in_a_spi
>> n_ov.html
>> http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/071112-technov-asteroid-mistake
>> .html
>> http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/technology/technology.ht
>> ml?in_article_id=493152&in_page_id=1965
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Received on Mon 12 Nov 2007 09:33:24 PM PST

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