i (helped to) discover a new asteroid!

Over the past few days, I have been on Mount Lemmon in Arizona attending Astronomy Camp.  I’ll give you a couple of seconds to stop giggling now.  Done?  OK, I’ll wait a few more seconds…

During the camp, I and 15 other nerdlingers had the opportunity to take advantage of Arizona’s dark, dry and clear skies as well as a number of large telescopes used by astronomers from the University of Arizona and around the world.  For me, the highlight of participating in the program was spending a few hours with the Catalina Sky Survey, who are responsible for keeping a watch out for Near Earth Objects (NEOs) which might collide with the Earth.   CSS, along with a worldwide network of observers, looks for unidentified moving objects in the night sky using (in this case) a 60″ telescope on Mount Lemmon, as well as sophisticated computer software.  Luckily for me, I was a “guest observer” with CSS when a new Near Earth Object called 2010-KE came into view, and thus got my name recorded as one of the discoverers of this object.

OK, so I had a couple of disappointments – first, I would have named this object “Al’s Hurtling Rock of Doom,” but the Minor Planet Center (who makes naming decisions) came up with 2010-KE instead.  If you ask me, I think anti semitism was involved here.  Secondly, 2010-KE is not projected to actually hit the Earth, only to pass close by.  I would have really liked to have my name on “the big one” or at least one that would hit my neighbor’s car which is parked on the street rather than in his driveway… not that I carry a grudge, Bob…  Other than these quibbles, being a NEO discoverer was really cool.  I shall now be (even more) insufferable.

Here’s an animated GIF showing 2010-KE streaking across the sky…

And here is a diagram showing just how close 2010-KE was to Earth when these shots were taken…

And here is the official bulletin from the Minor Planet Center announcing the discovery of 2010-KE…

NEO 2010-KE DIscovery Bulletin

i (helped to) discover a new asteroid!

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