Friday 8 January 2010

2009 December notes: 2009 WZ104, 9U01FF6, 2009 observing statistics

December provided a reasonable amount of observing time but the number of NEOs discovered by the surveys was much reduced, 34 new objects compared to the 116 they picked up in November, so NEO follow-up work was quieter than of late.

As well as following objects on the NEO Confirmation page, the opportunity was taken to follow 2009 WZ104 on several nights to try and determine its light curve. This is an Aten discovered on Nov. 25 by the Catalina Sky Survey and was brighter than 17th mag. for the first two weeks in December. However, not enough coverage was obtained to be able to find an unambiguous period, but it is likely to be longer than 6-8 hours.

The unusual artificial satellite 9U01FF6 mentioned last month in TA Vol 46 No 548 p211 (2009) which is in a 30+ day, very elongated orbit, taking it as close to us as 5 Earth diameters and about twice as far as the Moon at apogee, was picked up again on Dec. 27, three days before perigee. It was only 5" from the prediction calculated with FindOrb using positions from the previous two returns and taking into account Solar Radiation Pressure. Unfortunately the weather stopped any further observations but it should be visible next on the night of 6th Feb. 2010 and then in March a relatively long apparition, from the 11th-15th.

2009 overall was an exceptionally good year for observing at Great Shefford, producing the best observing figures since my observatory was commissioned in May 2002. Several statistics follow, with the previous best figures and year in parentheses: The most nights used (202 vs. 183 in 2003), the most hours spent at the telescope (938h vs. 838h in 2005), the largest amount of time the CCD shutter was open (24d 00h vs. 22d 03h in 2007) and far and away the largest number of images taken in a year (148,361 vs. 92,025 in 2007). That last statistic is in part to do with more Minor Planet photometry being done in 2009 than before, with many objects being followed for long periods of time, collecting many images during a night. The total number of images taken since 2002 passed the 1/2 million mark during the year and now stands at 570,575.

2009 generally seems to have beaten my previous records by 8-12% all round. Lets hope 2010 doesn't let us down!

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