[meteorite-list] Target Asteroid 2002 GT Tracked by European Teams

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2013 12:03:14 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201307191903.r6JJ3ExF015193_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Target asteroid tracked by European teams
European Space Agency
18 July 2013

In a recent close-ish flyby, asteroid 2002 GT was studied in
detail for the first time by a network of European astronomers.
The observations were coordinated by ESA's asteroid centre in
Italy, and should prove crucial for a future spacecraft rendezvous.

Asteroid 2002 GT, a relatively large object a few hundred metres
across, made a somewhat close flyby of Earth on 26 June, passing
us at almost 50 times the distance of the Moon.

The encounter sparked intensive worldwide observations because the
asteroid is the target of NASA's Epoxi mission in January 2020.

Last month's flyby was the last chance before then to study the
object's diameter, rotation, composition and other physical

Ideal opportunity to coordinate response

"The flyby presented an ideal opportunity to exercise the unique
'coordinating function' of ESA's new Near-Earth Object
Coordination Centre," says Ettore Perozzi, project leader for NEO
services at Deimos Space.

"By alerting and then collating observations from diverse European
teams, the Centre was able to provide a comprehensive set of
results back to the scientific and space exploration communities,
a cycle that wasn't happening before. This is really a first for

Deimos Space leads a project team that operates the Centre at the
Agency's ESRIN site near Rome.

The gathered information will enable a very good characterisation
of the asteroid's surface composition, thermal properties, shape
and rotation. All of these features are crucial for any spacecraft

Moreover, analysis of its changing brightness indicates the
possible presence of a small moon.

Focal point: ESA's NEO Coordination Centre

Gerhard Drolshagen, co-manager of the NEO segment at ESA's Space
Situational Awareness programme office, says the 2002 GT event
highlighted the potential coordination role that the Centre can
play in addition to its primary function of providing information
on all known NEOs, including their orbits, impact risk and close
approaches to Earth.

"Traditionally, Europe's asteroid community reliably delivered
world-class observations and has been credited with many
significant discoveries and findings. What was lacking, however,
was a central point to coordinate and synthesise data that could
function across national and organisational boundaries.

"Our Centre has proven it can act as a driving force and a focal
point for the European and international community involved in
asteroid science, impact monitoring and mitigation."

Ettore adds: "We now know 2002 GT is a rocky body, belonging to a
peculiar transition class that astronomers refer to as "Sq-type".

"It's also a potentially hazardous object, as its orbit crosses
that of Earth, so it's certainly a very interesting object, well
worth watching."

About 2002GT observations

ESA's Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre (NEO-CC) received
well-documented observations of 2002GT as follows:

    o Photometry and light-curve data from the 1 m-diameter C2PU
telescope at the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur
<https://www.oca.eu/?lang=en>, which allows calculation of
the rotation period (3.77 hours). The shape of the light
curve is also compatible with the presence of a satellite.
    o Spectra and photometric data from Asiago Observatory
<http://archive.oapd.inaf.it/asiago/> (University of Padova
and Observatory of Padova) which allows determination of the
asteroid type (Sq), in agreement with other observations.
    o Infrared observations from the Campo Imperatore Station
<http://www.oa-roma.inaf.it/cimperatore/> of the INAF Rome
Astronomical Observatory. Even under bad weather conditions,
teams there were able to spot the asteroid 20 days before
Earth flyby.
    o Astrometry from Gaia-FUN-SSO
Six telescopes observed 2002 GT providing more than 1000
astrometric measurements. These were sent to the Minor
Planet Centre
<http://www.minorplanetcenter.org/iau/mpc.html> and
processed at the Institut de Mercanique Celste et de Calcul
des Ephemerides <http://www.imcce.fr/langues/en/> for
computing orbital elements.
Received on Fri 19 Jul 2013 03:03:14 PM PDT

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