Department of Physics AstroLab

Orbits of Near Earth Asteroids

Apart from the major planets, the Solar System contains a large number of smaller bodies, i.e. the asteroids and comets. The ones that closely approach the Earth are labelled Near-Earth Objects. Near Earth Asteroids are sub-divided into members of the Aten, Apollo and Amor groups depending on their aphelion distance. While the probability of the Earth being struck by an NEO is extremely small, the consequences of such a collision are catastropic as the approach speed is typical 10s of km/s.

The aim of the project is to independently determine the orbits of several (~4) NEOs by making a series of positional measurements. This is achieved by measuring the asteroid's position on a CCD image relative to that of catalogued stars. By tracking an asteroid over the term its orbit can be well determined. The goal will be to obtain about ~10 astrometric observations per asteroid. A secondary aim will be on one occasion to measure the distance to an NEO via simultaneous observations from Durham and La Palma.

The targets will be chosen from the Minor Planet Center lists, e.g. The NEO Page and/or the NEOs listed on the home page of www.spaceweather.com.

Below shows the flyby of 2012 QG42 as recorded with Far-East-14 on 2012 September 11 (movie created from 100 8-second exposures). 2012 QG42 is an Apollo NEO that was discovered on 2012 August 26 (only two weeks before our observations). It has an estimated diameter of 310m and made its closest approach to the Earth on 2012 September 14 at 7.4 lunar distances (2.8 million km).


The motion of 2005 JE46 thru a star field on 11th November 2005 from 20:51 to 21:25 diplayed as a movie. At the time 2005 JE46 was 0.046 AU from the Earth and had a proper motion of 0.3 arcsec per second.

AstroLab students (Victoria and Leo) successfully imaged the 250m-wide near-Earth asteroid 2007 TU24 as it whizzed pass the Earth on the evening of Monday 28th January 2008.

NEOs have been observed by Astrolab students since 1995.

1995 Aten, 1992ac, Eros
2000 Toro, Daedalus, 1991 DB, 1999 RH27, 2000 BH19, Eros, Cuno, Krok, 2000 QN130, 2000 OG44.
2001 Griqua, Geographos, 2000 WE147, 1991YA, Boreas, VK (7341), Heracles(5143)
2002 Griqua, Anteros, Eger, Ivar, 2001 TX16, 2000 XN254, 2001 CB21, 2001 SJ162, Eros, 1992 HE, RP120
2003 Eros, Lick, Nefertiti, 1992 SY, 2001 MZ7, 2003 AJ73, Bede, 1989 WQ1, 2002 AL14, Hermes, Ivar, Florence, 1990 OS, 1996 GT.
2004 Cincinnati, 2004 EW9, 1979QB, Nyx, 2000 UT16, Anteros, 1993 VW, Camarillo, Phaethon, 1989 WQ1, 2000 JS66, 2002 CE, Aurora
2005 2003 SW222, (66251) 1999 GJ2, Apollo(1862), 2005 JE46, Mullo (5164)
2006 Bivoj, Cincinnnati, Lick, Mullo, (5332) 1990 DA, (7088) Ishtar, (11405) 1999 CV3, (23183) 2000 OY21, 2000 BD19
2007 Eric, 2007 LR32, 1999 CU3, 1987 VA, 1989 WA2, 2002 CE, 2001 SN263
2009 Eros, 2009WZ104, Donquixote, Wilson-Harrington, 1990 TR, 2005 MC, 2005 RQ6
2011 Florence, Lick, 2004YW, 2011BA12, 2000DM8, Eric, 2000 PN9, 1998XB
2012 1998 ST49, 2012 QF49, 2008 XE3, 1990 TR, 2000 BH19
2013 1999 YK5, 2012 DA14, 2008 DG17, Camillo, 2013 BV15, 2006 YT13, 2009 AV 2002 UM11, 2000 RJ34, 2007 SJ, ESA, Midas
2014 Aten, 2000 RJ34, 2007 SJ, 1995 SA, 1995 CR, 2014 CR

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