Thursday, 6 November 2008

2008 October: Observing statistics, 2008 UL90, 2008 UT95, 2008 TT26, 2008 TC26, 2008 TQ10, 2008 TR10, 2008 UX202

After months of disappointing weather throughout the summer at Great Shefford, October proved to be exceptionally good, with the largest number of hours (125h) recorded at the telescope in a single month since I commissioned the observatory in 2002.

The big news early in the month was the brief appearance of 2008 TC3, hours before impacting Earth early on Oct 7th. However, there were plenty of other new objects discovered by the surveys during the month, with over 50 being observed after having been put on the NEO Confirmation Page (NEOCP) by the Minor Planet Center.

One of the more interesting objects was 2008 UL90, a member of the rare Interior Earth Objects, or so called Apohele class, with orbits entirely inside the orbit of the Earth. There are only 14 definite or suspected members of this class to date. This one was at 66 degrees elongation in the morning sky when observed. It should brighten slightly to about mag +19.7 and the elongation increase by just a couple of degrees by mid-November before it slips back into the glare of the Sun during December.

A few fast movers were also followed, 2008 UT95 was last caught moving at 40"/min, just over 4 Lunar Distances (LD) from Earth on the night of Oct 31/Nov 1st, two days before passing Earth at 1.5 LD, but it was not reported from any observatory after Nov 1st. 2008 TT26 was well observed from a number of observatories during October and briefly reached mag +14 around Oct 22/23 when it was recorded moving at about 50"/min, at a distance of about 3.5 LD.

The good weather brought another record for me, a total of 12 new minor planets discovered during the month, with 9 of them found in the field of NEOCP objects. One, 2008 TC26, turned out to be a Hungaria class object, with an orbit inside the main belt, just further out than Mars and was found in the same field of view as two(!) NEOCP objects, 2008 TQ10 and 2008 TR10. The last of the new objects found was 2008 UX202 on 28 Oct and confirmed 3 nights later. This turned out to have a perihelion distance of 1.68 A.U., just outside the aphelion distance of Mars and like 2008 TC26 is in the inner zone of the main belt.