…continuedHunting Asteroids From Your Backyard
Don't be misled by programs that produce approximate positions of objects in CCD images. Astrometry requires positional accuracy to better than 1 arcsecond. Despite the rigorous mathematics involved, the Raab and Rogers programs do the work in the blink of an eye with a few mouse clicks. Advanced image-analysis packages such as MIRA also perform astrometric calculations, but Astrometrica and CCD Astrometry are truly a pleasure to use since they have been customized for asteroid and comet astrometry with amateur CCD cameras. They even assemble the data in the proper format for electronic submission, a great advantage when you consider the mess that could arise from transposing even a single pair of digits in the multitude of numbers associated with a typical measurement.
Checking an Identification
Web site or by writing the Minor Planet Center, Mail Stop 18, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA, or you can e-mail the center.
While there are sky-simulation programs that plot the positions of known asteroids, the ones I'm familiar with include only the permanently numbered asteroids (some 7,000 objects). But there are thousands more in the Minor Planet Center's database, and these should be checked before reporting an object as a possible discovery.
What do you do if you find an unknown object? Most important is to get positions on a second night. With a few exceptions reserved for objects having highly unusual orbits, the Minor Planet Center does not publish or give discovery credit for a single night's observations. Even in the case of known objects, it is most helpful if you can measure positions on a second night. When you have enough data to submit electronically, astronomers at the center will analyze and add them to more than one million positions already made by professional and amateur observers around the world.