Near Earth Asteroid 2009 FD - whilst you were sleeping!
Space, what a busy place! Whilst grabbing some 60 second exposures of Asteroid 2009 FD on its 1.6LD race-by-rendezvous with our Earth environment, I also recorded 3 even faster moving objects, their ghostly trails appearing as fleeting tracks on my CCD camera.
The “short dashes” are the path of Asteroid 2009 FD, each “dash” being a 60 second exposure. The longer trails are probably satellites, as their paths are “punctuated” by the download time of each frame. And I thought we lived in a quiet neighbourhood! I felt privileged to be outside watching all the early morning action, whilst all around me, everyone lay sound asleep.
FOV 25’ 45” x 17’ 09” at an image scale of 2.02 arcsec/pixel
PS – I have an animation but I can’t upload it, as our desktop PC is dead and I’m working on a older laptop with a very limited set of software tools!
Hah – managed to navigate to our backups on the network storage drive and located my ftp application, installation instructions and upload instructions! Oh the joy of backups when your computer dies on you!
The animation is much less confusing than the jpg. Really cool.
Am I right - when the slow asteroid is top left near the end of the animation, it looks like it's smashing into something. 2 bits come off in either direction?
That’s probably a cosmic ray strike on that one particular frame. As our main PC is currently being re-built, I have had to resort to using use some older software tools on an older PC, so I haven’t been able to clean up the images to remove these artifacts!
Thanks for all your nice comments and feed back – they leave a nice glow after a hard nights work!
The (presumed) satellite trails had me floored when each image downloaded, taking approx 18 secs as it is the older parallel camera. I initially thought, “what the!!!!” , believing that the camera had developed a fault. I reckon the trails are too regular and parallel to be meteors?
‘Twas almost a night that didn’t happen! Thin bands of cloud kept coming through, ruining 2 out of the 3 sequences I managed to grab. In the best sequence above, frame 12 is missing due cloud interruption.
Having an older PC with older apps was also quite frustrating, but hey, if these are my only worries in life, then I am a lucky man indeed!
Hi Dennis, space is indeed a busy place, at least in the solar system and environs.
This thread is timely as there is exciting developments in the NEA watch network of observers brought about by the recent passage of 2009 DD45, a 40-60m rock that was only discovered on 27th February by Rob McNaught and passed us by on the 2nd March at an altitude of 63,000km above Tahiti.
Producing good astrometry for these fast moving (>100"/minute) is very difficult because there is not a good reliable way to tell the time of exposure of normal CCD images, accurate to 0.1 second, however these images were taken using intergrating video cameras (WAT-120N+s) in both cases AND each frame was time stamped with GPS Video Time Inserters (KIWI OSDs), accurate to 0.001seconds.
The upshot of all this is that VERY good astrometry of the asteroid was produced and submitted to the Minor Planet Centre (MPC). The MPC in turn couldn't handle the accuracy of the time base and had to change their procedures to properly record the astrometry submitted. The upshot of all this is that for very fast movers, video techniques will probably be the prefered method of observation.
Dave Herald and others are working with the MPC to produce a guide for future observations and it is all within the capability of the amateur astronomer. As soon as the guide is finalised and released, I'll post it here.
So, NEA observers wishing to contribute to the observing program should watch this space!
Thanks to everyone for your nice words of appreciation, they are much valued. Now that our new computer has been commissioned and familiar software re-loaded, I began the hunt for these mysterious trails, assuming them to be satellites due to their parallel tracks and multiple paths recorded on the sub-frames.
Starry Night Pro Plus 6 suggested the following candidate geosynchronous Satellites for the trails in the composite image.
NSS-9 Launched on February 12, 2009. NSS-9 at 183° East is a replacement satellite for NSS-5, featuring three C-band beams ideal for government users, broadcasters, carriers and the maritime industry. http://www.newskies.com/nss9.htm
Starry Night Pro Plus 6
Using Starry Night Pro Plus 6, I plotted the paths of the geosynchronous Satellites then overlaid the ST7 composite image which showed a remarkable correlation between the actual and predicted paths of these 3 geosynchronous satellites, although I had mysteriously missed a 4th, Express-MD1?
SkyTools 3 Pro
I then plotted the trail of 2009 FD using SkyTools 3 Pro and merging the composite ST7 image and the SkyTools screen capture revealed how remarkably accurate SkyTools 3 Pro was in plotting the predicted path of 2009 FD.
Finally, on a roll, I generated another animated gif which on the 1st pass, shows a label free animation of the satellite that more accurately depicts the dynamic nature of the event which then runs on into an animation including labels identifying the 3 satellites.
Blimey Dennis (English colloquialism ), when are you going to start running a few classes on how you put all this together. I know I've sat with you a couple of times while you've outlined it, but a lot of its still double dutch to me. Boy you do a professional job of it.