Earth Changes TV/Breaking News - Fast-Moving Asteroid Named '2002 JQ9'
- Fast-Moving Asteroid Named '2002 JQ9'...05/09/02
Roger W. Sinnott - Sky & Telescope
On May 6th, MIT Lincoln Laboratory astronomers operating the LINEAR 1-meter survey telescope in New Mexico detected a 15th-magnitude minor planet moving rapidly across the constellation Hercules. Among the amateurs who quickly followed up with astrometric measurements were Bill Yeung and Bert Stevens (southwestern U.S.) and J. Broughton (Queensland, Australia), using telescopes in the 10- to 18-inch aperture range.
This is the brightest near-Earth asteroid to be discovered in the past few months, but it is not passing especially close to our planet. Calculations by Timothy B. Spahr at the Minor Planet Center in Massachusetts indicate that 2002 JQ9 reached a minimum distance of 0.056 astronomical unit (22 times farther away than the Moon) on Tuesday evening, May 7th. It is on a trajectory that will carry it out as far as the orbit of Mars. Believed to be 400 to 800 meters across, 2002 JQ9 takes almost exactly 15 months to circle the Sun in an elongated orbit tipped 25 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic.
For the next week or so, amateurs with CCD-equipped telescopes should have little trouble recording trailed images of 2002 JQ9. It is expected to be as bright as 14th magnitude this weekend, when it will be moving southwestward through Scorpius and Libra at about 1/4 degree per hour.
The following ephemeris has been calculated at Sky & Telescope using Spahr's orbital elements given on Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2002-J27. At the start of each hour (Universal Time), it gives the object's right ascension, declination, distance from Earth (Delta), distance from the Sun (r), expected visual magnitude, and the constellation through which it is passing. For information on subscribing to these circulars, visit: http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/mpc.html
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