Friday, 21 October 2011

Discovery vs discovery

I had a really great chat last night with an astronomer working with the NSO and IOP schools projects about the nature of the term discovery. Our team of asteroid hunters and comet watchers have filed probably close to 40 new objects with the minor planet centre since we started our project, all uncatalogued minor planets, according to both astrometrica (the software we use which interrogates some of the largest known databases in the world) and with the minor planet centre's own MP checker system.

Some of these come back (a small no. in our case) after a few weeks of checking by the MPC as known objects which were simply not in their database (it's a huge task for them too!), some come back as previously observed, but only for one night perhaps some years ago, and some are assigned preliminary designations to our team (this is a large proportion)..

However.. we can only claim full and final "discovery" after the asteroid has gone round the Sun a few times (multi oppositions) and has been tracked (which is why we do follow on to secure orbits/get a better set of data for the orbit) and then every so often we will re-image the object to keep a track on it.

So.. whilst we have "discovered" close to 40 asteroids, many of them are still in this "pending" state, and we'll be doing solid scientific follow on to ensure that the fantastic Faulkes Telescopes do get full naming rights on these in the future.

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