"Do there exist many worlds, or is there but a single world? This is one of the most noble and exalted questions in the study of Nature."
-- Albertus Magnus

M8 (Mike Sherick)

Minor Planets


Variable Star Measurements

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The Science of ASLC

Unlike most scientific disciplines, where only professionals tend to contribute to the current body of science, astronomy still relies heavily on input from amateur scientists. Several of our members are involved in scientific research including minor planet discovery and characterization, variable star observations, and occultation timing. The following information outlines some of the contributions our members make to the science of astronomy.

Minor Planet Discovery and Tracking (by ASLC Members, Bert and Janet Stevens)

Asteroid AnimationAsteroids (or as astronomers call them, "minor planets") mostly orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. But not all do. Some come very close to the Earth. A few actually hit the Earth - some causing mass extinctions. A new impact might extinguish Homo Sapiens - a group that includes the members of this club (among others). So some ASLC members track minor planets, watching for the one out of hundreds of thousands that may impact the Earth.

Very precise measurements of the positions of these Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are required to determine the likelihood of an Earth impact. The Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union tracks the positions and computes the orbits of all minor planets. They, and others, provide a recommendation as to which NEOs need to be observed most urgently to improve our knowledge of their orbit.

As night falls, asteroid hunters around the world power-up their observatories, and feed the computer's control system the list of objects to observe. The telescope will work all night, moving from object to object under computer control. It will automatically check to see if it is pointed at the right part of the sky, focus itself, and take the required number of images. Using the background stars as a reference frame, the position of the minor planet can then be accurately determine. That data is emailed to the Minor Planet Center to improve the accuracy of the orbit of the minor planet. Results from all over the world are published each night in the Daily Orbit Update.

We all hope that we will never find a minor planet that will impact the Earth. Whether we would be able to stop such an impact is uncertain, but the more advance notice we have of such an event, the more likely we can prevent the impact. So we keep imaging the sky on almost every clear night, hoping that none of the NEOs we measure will become the one that will change history.

Bert and Janet Stevens' Minor Planet Discoveries
All are main-belt asteroids unless noted otherwise
(click on an asteroid to see its orbital path)




(111558) Barrett (2002 AZ)
2002 AO3
[Mars Crossing]
(55561) Madenberg (2002 AF9)
(126749) Johnjones (2002 DQ1)
2002 DX2
(89903) Post (2002 DL3)
2002 DH4
2002 ED

2002 EW153
2002 XS59
(90138) Diehl (2002 YD)
2003 AZ80
(143575) 2003 EB60
2003 FF
2003 FG1
(196298) 2003 FQ
2003 FR7
(128065) Bartbenjamin (2003 OK)
2003 WW2
2003 WX2
2003 WK25
(133807) 2003 WQ152
2004 AA
2004 RD109
2004 RK111
2004 WK9
2004 XQ5
2004 XT14
2004 XU16

2005 VH
2005 VH7
2005 XE5
2005 XL8
2005 XM8
2006 AR
2005 AS
2005 SJ131
2006 TD8
2006 TA10
2006 UG
2006 UC62
2006 UB217
2006 WL27
2006 WF185
2006 YA13
2007 DB41
2007 DF61
2007 HM4
2007 HA88
2007 JF21
2007 RS19

2008 CX70
2008 EC
2008 EF68
2008 GD2
2008 SC149
2008 ST151
2008 SV151
2008 TM
2008 TK10 [Trojan]
2008 UA1
2008 UM2
2008 UV4
2008 UR90
2008 UR199
2008 UQ199
2008 VY14
2008 VX14
2008 WV2

Click here to read about additional science conducted by ASLC Astronomers