After a year of setup and some setbacks, Squirrel Valley Observatory has entered into the initial phase of research, in particular minor planet astrometry. The observatory has been granted an observatory code (W34) from the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center (MPC), operating from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge Massachusetts. SVO submitted 138 single point observations of 8 minor planets (asteroids) over a period of 20 days. Only 4 observations fell outside of the required 1 arc second of accuracy. This fulfilled the requirement of demonstrating the ability to produce “good”, properly formatted astrometic data consistently.
Squirrel Valley Observatory W34’s designation and continuing contribution of data will be published in the Minor Planet Circulars each month.
Below is a single sample of the astrometric data taken of the asteroid “03353 Jarvis” on the night of August 31st.
Asteroid astrometry is a branch of astronomy that involves precise measurements of the positions and movements of asteroids, also comets and near earth objects (NEO). This is accomplished by imaging the target, comparing the data to known data from the MPC, then submitting the measurements which can then
be used to refine orbit predictions or in some case lead to the discovery of new minor planets.
“The Minor Planet Center, or MPC, is the single worldwide location for receipt and distribution of positional measurements of minor planets, comets and
outer irregular natural satellites of the major planets. The MPC is responsible for the identification, designation and orbit computation for all of these
objects. This involves maintaining the master files of observations and orbits, keeping track of the discoverer of each object, and announcing discoveries
to the rest of the world via electronic circulars and an extensive website. The MPC operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, under the
auspices of Division F of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).”