What a year it has been. While some planned upgrades have not progressed as planned, there has been no shortage of determination to move forward, and that we did. Dedication is sometimes it’s own reward, especially if you can accept losing a great deal of sleep. There is also great satisfaction in producing maximum results with minimum tools.
After turning the observatories full attention to near-earth object astrometry, we doubled our 2018 MPEC output of discovery confirmation objects from that of 2017. W34 was credited with confirmation assistance for 35 new NEO’s in 2017 and 68 new objects in 2018, for a total of 103 new NEO’s confirmed from the NEOCP page. This was our proudest achievement. Since the start of NEO operations, W34 has submitted data for 412 unique new and known NEO’s. If all minor planets observations, including main belt asteroids are totaled, we have submitted data for over 1,300 unique asteroids since July of 2016. Not bad for a facility of this size and equipment, and in this location. We definitely squeezed the maximum out of what we have to work with. While the southeastern US is not a hot bed of observatory activity for minor planet study, when it came to NEO confirmation and follow up, W34 was second in productivity only to Cordell–Lorenz Observatory 850 in Sewanee TN, if you look at MPEC discovery data confirmation submissions in the southeast U.S. http://mpec.jostjahn.de/MPECS-STAT-CODES-MPECS-DISCOVERIES.html
We ended the year ranked at 122 on the all time list of discovery confirmations stations (from 570 designated stations). Not bad for 2 years of activity from the humidity capital of the U.S.
Upgrades did not go as planned due to anticipated funding that did not come through. While this was a big disappointment, it wasn’t totally unexpected. We also did not venture back to any astrophotography, but this was due to 100% of our efforts being concentrated on NEO studies, and the inclement weather conditions that persisted did not help matters.
The weather in the foothills of western North Carolina was horrible in 2018. Humidity, as usual was through the roof with rain being the word of the year. Rainfall amounts were the highest since records have been kept here.
After some brief down time for maintenance, 2019 will see Squirrel Valley Observatory W34 resume the collection of astrometric data in support of near-earth object confirmations and follow up. Maybe some astrophotography this year as well. We plan to continue exploring funding options that will allow for equipment upgrades which would increase our near-earth asteroid detection capabilities and data output in the future.
Clear skies and dark nights!