Asteroids and Near Earth Object Observations


The McCarthy Observatory has a rich history of detecting, imaging, and measuring asteroids and other Near Earth Objects (NEOs).  Recognized by the International Astronomical Union with Observatory Code 932, JJMO has been providing precise measurements and astrometric data of potentially hazardous asteroids since its inception.  Starting from 2001, over 2000 observations have been submitted to and accepted by the Minor Planet Center, operated at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge Massachusetts.  This data is further shared with NEODyS, operated by the European Space Agency and tasked with tracking all NEOs with special focus on close encounters or potential impacts with the Earth.  All of JJMO’s NEO observations and residuals are available on the NEODyS site here.

Of special note is asteroid 2008 TC3, a NEO discovered just 20 hours before it impacted Earth near the Sudan.  JJMO was one of the last observatories to image the asteroid, just 15 minutes before it entered Earth’s shadow on it’s final approach to impact.  In 2018, the observatory acquired a piece of the asteroid, now known as meteorite Almahatta Sitta.

JJMO's final imaging of 2008 TC3

Peter Birtwhistle’s Great Shefford Observatory has a great write up of the details surrounding the discovery and subsequent impact.