Tuesday, 5 December 2006

2006 November notes: 2006 WV

November ended up providing the most observing time at Great Shefford since Nov 2005, 105 hours over 16 nights.

The NEO highlight of the month was 2006 WV, discovered on Nov 17th with the 0.68-m Schmidt at Catalina. At 20th mag and moving at a moderate 2"/min at discovery it was added to the NEO confirmation page and was searched for on the evening of Nov 18, but not found. Unusually it was outside the uncertainty area predicted by the Minor Planet Center, reason being that it had unusual motion because it was headed almost directly for us and was accelerating rapidly towards a very close encounter at 10am on 21 Nov, within the orbit of the Moon.

LINEAR and the Mt. Lemmon telescope of the Catalina Survey picked it up again less than 24 hours later and it was observed from Great Shefford on Nov 19.0 UT, moving at 6"/min and at mag +19. The next night was cloudy, but by 9pm on 20th Nov it had brightened up to mag +16.5 and was racing along at 150"/min! By this time it was about double the distance of the moon and closing fast. It was followed on and off all night, finally lost to the morning twilight at 6:47am on 21 Nov with the Sun just 7 degrees below the horizon, by which time it was moving at 414"/min (or the apparent diameter of the moon in about 4 minutes), mag +15 and just at the point of crossing inside the moons orbit. Although not reported again, closest approach was 3 hours later at a distance of 349,900 Km (0.91 Lunar distances).