Saturday 4 February 2006

2006 January notes: 2006 BA, 2006 BV39, 2006 BF56, 2006 BH99

The first half of January was very poor with just 3 usable nights, but the second half was better with 10 nights and brought some interesting fast movers...

On Jan 20/21st 2006 BA was observed at mag +16.5, passing by at 2 lunar distances (l.d.) and moving at 60"/min.

Then on Jan 26th the Spacewatch 1.8-m reflector discovered 2006 BV39, confirmed 15 hours later from Klet in the Czech Republic. It was about 4 l.d. at discovery and closing fast. In conversation with Monty Robson at 932 (John J. McCarthy Observatory in Connecticut) on the morning of the 27th I mentioned that 2006 BV39 would be an interesting target the next night. Nowhere had reported it to the Minor Planet Center after Klet's confirmation when I tried but failed to find it at midnight on the 28th. On checking with Monty, he mentioned that he had got it the night before but had not reduced the astrometry. He kindly measured the positions immediately and sent them through to me, allowing me to update the ephemeris and then to locate the NEO. It was 23' W of the MPC's prediction and would have been very difficult to find without the correction. By this time it was moving at 210"/min and was just 5,000 miles outside the Moon's orbit. I followed it until 05:14UT on the 29th by which time it had accelerated to 277"/min and had crossed 28,000 miles inside the Moon's orbit with closest approach about 2 hours later at 0.9 l.d. This was the third NEO I have tracked while inside the Moon's orbit in four months!

Just a few hours later news came through of a mag +21 NEO discovered from Mt. Lemmon with the 1.5-m reflector at 7:22UT and followed by them for 5 hours, during which time the apparent speed went from 10"/min to 14"/min. Obviously approaching fast, it was confirmed almost simultaneously from Klet and Great Shefford at about 22:10UT that night and given the designation 2006 BF56 by the Minor Planet Center. By then it was mag +19.5, moving at 48"/min and was about 3 l.d. away. It was followed from Great Shefford until 06:42UT when it was lost in morning twilight, by which time it was about mag +17.5, had accelerated up to 346"/min and was only 23,000 miles outside the Moon's orbit. It crossed inside the Moon's orbit just 15 minutes later and closest approach was at 10:32UT when it passed at 0.5 l.d. Although not reported after 06:42UT it was anyway unobservable by 12:00UT on 29th, having faded back to mag +21 again but also moving at 1,000"/min! The entire apparition was over in less than 1.5 days during which time it had covered nearly 180 degrees of sky.

Although badly hampered by cloud, 2006 BH99 was then observed on the night of Jan 30 at mag +17 at 2.7 l.d., moving at 90"/min, passing by at just 1.2 l.d. about 14 hours later. Quite a busy few days!