Astro News Briefs: February 10–16

An Interior Asteroid

February 14, 2003 | Astronomers with the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project have observed the first object in the solar system (Venus and Mercury excluded) having an orbit entirely within that of Earth — albeit barely. The minor planet dubbed 2003 CP20 has a 235-day orbit that stretches out to 0.980 astronomical unit from the Sun. At our own closest approach to the Sun, we only get within 0.983 a.u. The new asteroid is estimated to be only 2 kilometers across. And though it poses no risk to Earth (with a minimum possible distance of 28 million kilometers), the object can pass within 0.05 astronomical unit (7.5 million kilometers) of Venus. More information will be known as astronomers refine the asteroid's orbit.

New Solar Space Telescope

February 14, 2003 | The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced it is putting the GOES 12 satellite into operational service in April, almost two years after its launch into a storage orbit. Meanwhile, the satellite's Soft X-ray Imager began imaging the Sun on January 22 and is generating daily X-ray movies of solar activity, marking the first solar imaging by the weather agency.

The latest images are posted on the Solar X-ray Imager site: