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Published by: European Southern Observatory on Apr 07, 2009
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05/11/2014

 
THE
MESSENGER
No.
13-June
1978
Thisissue
of
the
Messenger
focusseson
therecentdiscovery
of
twoEarth-approachingminor
planets.
Both
were
found
withthe
ESO
Schmidt
telescope
onLaSillabyDr.Hans-Emil
Schuster.
Working
inclose
collaboration
with
Dr.B.Marsden
of
the
Smithsonian
Observatory
in
the
USA,
it
was
possible
to
establish
the
orbits
before
the
closest
approaches
in
March
1978.This
enabled
other
observers
to
studythetiny
planetsand
to
learn
more
abouttheir
physicalproperties.
Although
moving
invery
different
orbits,
1978CAand
DA
came
within
3.8
million
kilometres
of
each
other
onFebruary17,1978.
1978
Feb9
14
T
T
T
T
1
Tl
T
11
1
rBi
T
TI
~
III
11
I
~ ~
~
I
1111
III
~ 1 4
I
11
11
I
~ · 9
1
11
g
cb
J,
eb
J,
Jan20
10
DA
10
Thef1y-by
of
1978CA
and
1978
DAearly
1978.
The
orbits
of
theEarth
and
the
two
minor
planets
are
shownduring
aperiodof
aboutfour
months,
centered
on
thedates
of
closestapproaches
inMarch.The
planets
are
marked
at
five-day
intervals.Those
parts
of
the
orbits
which
are
above
the
Ecliptic
(plane
of
theEarth's
orbit)are
fully
drawn.In
order
to
better
visualizethe
three-dimensional
positions,
verti
callines
connecting
the
minor
planets
tothe
Ecliptic
havebeentraced.
1978CA
was
discovered
on
February
8
and
came
within
19
millionkilometres
on
March
8;1978
DAwas
discovered
onFebruary
17
and
was
only
13
millionkilometres
from
theEarth
on
March
15.
Notealsotheveryclose
encounter
betweenthe
twoplanets
on
February
17.
 
TheCloseEncounterwith1978CAand1978DA
Itwasa
finenight
onLaSilla.
Astronomers
were
working
with
all
of
theESOtelescopes,
scrutinizing
thesouthern
skies
with
spectrographs
and
photometers
andthe
big
Schmidt
wasbusy,
taking
deepphotographs.
Itwasthe
night
between
February
7and
8.
After
mid
night,
ESO
astronomer
Hans-EmilSchuster
put
a
red-sen
sitiveplatein
the
Schmidt
telescope
andsettled
downto
guideduring
the
90-minute
exposure
time.
The
fieldwasin
thesouthernpart
of
theconstellation
of
Hydra
(TheWaterSerpent)and
it
contained
a
prominent
cluster
of
galaxies.
Later
in
themorning,
theplatewasdevelopedandHans
Schuster
hada
quick
check
of
theimage
quality,
beforethe
platewastobe
sent
on
to
the
"visiting"
astronomerwho
hadasked
for
it.
Down
inthe
lowerright
corner,
nearthe6
m
star
HR
4130,he
noticed
a
comparatively
faint
trail
of
a
minor
planet.Dur
ing
the
1'/2-hourexposure,the
smallplanethadmoved
about
1.8
millimetretowards
thenorth.
Trails
of
thislength
are
notinfrequent
on
long-exposure
plates,
buttwo
facts
caught
the
attentionof
theESO
astronomer;thedistance
from
the
Ecliptic
(about
30")andthe
directionof
motion,
almost
duenorth.This
normally
means
that
either
the
planet
is
moving
ina
rather
eccentricorbit
or
itisrelativelyclose
to
theEarth
or
both.
Itwas
obviously
an
object
that
was
worthto
be
fol
lowed
up.
During
the
next
nights,
some
short-exposure
plateswere
obtained,
approximatepositionsof
the
planet
weremeasuredand
telexed
to
Dr.
Brian
Marsden
at
theCentral
Bureau
ofAstronomical
Telegrams
in
Cambridge,
near
Boston,
Massachusetts.Dr.Marsden
calculated
a
prelimi
nary
orbit
and
couldimmediately
confirm
the
suspicionthat
thenew
minor
planet
was
rather
ciose
to
the
Earth.Im
provedorbitaldata
later
showed
the
distanceto
havebeen42
million
kilometreson
February
8.
Theasteroidwasgiven
the
name1978CAandwas
evidentlyrapidlyap
proaching
the
Earth.
Further
plateswere
obtained
during
thenewmoonperiodand
the
planet
was
followed
towards
north
while
its
daily
motion
was
rapidlyincreasing.
OnFebruary17,due
to
a
minor
mistake,theplatewas
off-set
abouttwo
degrees
tothe
east,so
that
1978CAwas
rather
ciose
tothe
western
edge.
Going
overtheplate,Hans
Schusternoticed
another
very
long
trail,
only
2
mmfrom
the
eastern
edge!Therewas
little
doubt
thatthis
wasyet
another
Earth-approaching
planet,
running
dueeast.
More
platesweretakenandaweeklaterDr.Marsden
could
confirm
that
1978DA(as
thesecondplanet
wascalled)
would
also
comerather
close
tothe
Earth.Allavailableplateswere
sentfrom
LaSilla
to
ESO/Genevaandweremeasured
accurately
on
the
ESOS-3000
two-coordinate
measuring
machine.
Thanks
to
the
z
I
3.
x
2.
.,
"
I
~ ~
"
"
,,
,
.;
:
: , ~ '
::::
::
C'.
::::
::
C!)
A::
::
:
I
(!tt.1!l
..
..
.::
!
<iii!
i
[i
1
"."II
'e
:I
...
,+e
:i::';
A
~
!+:
"
,
'"
,
~
~ : : :
:
11,1
I
:::
:
ei"
I
(>'I'
..
'
,
..
'
"'e
~ ~
:
..
y
&
~
I
+
I
+-1.
I
++
I
+
+-2.
1
+
+
I
A
projection
of
the
orbits
of
1978CA
and
1978
DA,
as
seen
from
the
direclion
of
ecliptical
(Iongitude,latitude)
=
(15Cf',
+
2Cf').
Thevernal
equinox
isinthe
direction
of
theX-axis
and
theY-axisis
perpendicular
totheX-axisinthe
ecliptical
plane.
The
Z-axis
points
towardsthe
eclipticalnorth-pole.
The
planets
are
indicated
at
20-day
intervals.
The
motions
are
slowerat
theaphelia(A)than
at
the
perihelia
(P)-in
particular
for
1978
DA.
Only
theEarth
is
shownamong
the
major
planets
to
avoidovercrowding
thefigure,
which
was
drawn
by
a
Calcomp
plotter
at
tached
tothe
ESOIHP
systeminGeneva.
The
unitsare
Astronomical
Units(A.U.).
2
 
1978CA:Trailon
a
15-minexposure
withtheESO
Schmidt
tele
scopeonMarch
1,
1978.
accuracy
of
thismachine(of
the
order
of
onemicron),
the
new
Perth
cataloguethatfurnished
the
astrometric
stan
dard
starsandan
improved
computer
programme,
itis
now
possible
to
measure
about
15platesperday.The
positions
of
1978CAandDAweretelexed
to
Dr.Marsden,
who
com
puted
the
improvedorbits
thesameday.From
then
on,
otherastronomerstook
over.The
two
as
teroids
were
movingrapidly
and
positions
were
obtained
inAustralia,JapanandtheUSA.
Other
observersmeasuredthe
objectsphotoelectrically
and
radiometrically
near
their
closest
approaches
onMarch8and15,respectively.
More
details
about
these
important
observations
aregivenby
J.
and
A.
Surdej
and
J.
Degewijinthe
following
articles.
TheOrbits
1978CAisan
Earth-crossing
minor
planet
and
thereforebelongstothenoblefamily
of
"Apollos"
ofwhich
21
are
now
known.
It
follows
an
orbit
slightlylargerthanthat
of
1978DA:Trailon
a
15-min
exposure
withtheESO
Schmidt
tele
scopeonMarch
8,1978.
theEarth
with
aperiodof
435days.The
orbit
is
somewhatinclinedtotheEcliptic
(26")
and
close
encounterswith
theEarthmaytakeplacein
March
andSeptember.
Since
the
period
of
1978CAisclose
to
6/5of
oneyear,five
orbital
re
volutions
of
1978CAwilltakesixyearsand
we
may
there
fore
expectto
have
anotherfly-by
in1984.However,whereasthe
minimum
distance
in1978wasab
out
19
mil
lion
kilometres,
that
in1984willbe
around
28
million
kilo
metres,
accordingto
Dr.Marsden.1978DAfliesinan
orbit
quitedifferentfromthat
of
CA.
Since
itdoes
not
crossthe
Earth's
orbit
at1
A.U.-its
perihelis
at
1.024
A.U.-it
iscalledan
"Amor"
planet
(a
Mars-crosser).Ofthese13are
now
known.The
orbit
is
ratherelongated
(the
eccentricity
is0.588)andthe
period
is
1,433days,al
most
4years.
We
may
thereforeexpectto
see1978
DA
againin1982.Actually,
the
orbitof
1978
DA
isbelieved
tochange
rapidly,and
it
is
very
probablethat
itwasrecently
(or
will
soon
become)an
"Apollo"
planetlike
1978CA.
PhotometrieObservationsof1978CAand1978DA
Jean
and
Anna
Surdej
By
moderncustom,
assoonasa
new
minor
planethasbeendiscovered,
it
is
givena
provisional
numberincluding
the
year
of
its
discoveryfollowed
by
two
letters.
Thefirstletterindicates
the
numberof
the
fortnight
(A
=
1,
B
=
2,
...
),
countedsince
the
beginning
ofthe
year
during
which
the
firstobservation
wasmade.
Thesecond
letter(A
=
1st,B
=
2nd,
...
)isan
incremental
numberordering
allthe
observations
of
minor
planets
within
that
fortnight.Since
the
firstnew
asteroidwas
found
onFebruary
8,
it
was
desig
nated1978CA.
Thesecond
asteroid,discoveredonFebruary17,wasnamed1978DA.Untilnow,
the
origin
asweilasthephysicaland
chemicalproperties
of
"Apollo"
and
"Amor"
type
asteroids
are
poorlyknown.
Could,
for
instance,1978CAbetherest
of
aninactive
cometnucleus?Furthermore,
it
is
also
notknownwhether
"Apollo"
and
"Amor"
type
asteroids
re
semble
certainclasses
of
meteorites
and
whetherthey
maybeassociated
withthenumerous
minor
planets
circling
theSunbetweenthe
orbits
of
Marsand
Jupiter.
TheObservations
Twonights
attheESO1mtelescopewere
allottedto
us
on
March1and
2,
1978
for
UBV
photometric
observations
of
1978
CA
and1978DA.On
March
1,
when1978CA(seethe
photo
abovelett)was
crossing
theskyatsucha
high
speedrateas
3 ~ 5
per
3

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