RASO Asteroid Hunters Break the 1500 Mark

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Newsworthy results from The Asteroid Hunters of the RAS Observatory.

Everyone knows about the Three Tenors. But at the RAS Observatory, everyone’s singing about the Five Hunters.

These top-notch amateur astronomers from around the world have formed a Web-based partnership dedicated to sharing information about discovering new, potentially Earth-threatening asteroids. Thanks to their hawk-eyed persistence, these asteroid hunters have discovered literally hundreds of previously unknown asteroids. Fortunately, none of these rocky lumps have proven dangerous.

But the peril is always there; more than 120,437 asteroids have been catalogued – leaving an unknown number still swirling capriciously in space; as evidenced by the near impact of a 100’-diameter asteroid that streaked by in 2004, just 26,500 miles from Earth. It had been detected only three days prior to its fly-by.

And that’s precisely the type of interplanetary beast the Five Hunters are determined to track down.

Though working in different parts of the world, all Five Hunters met through their use of the RAS Observatory – a professional-quality, New Mexico-based observatory that rents access time to professional and amateur astronomers over the Internet.

Through RAS’ website, Ernesto Guido of Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, Italy; Andrew Lowe of Calgary, Canada; Ulrich Wolff of Berlin, Germany; Robert Hutsebaut of Brussels, Belgium; and Jeffrey Sue of Honolulu, Hawaii, all met and began posting information and sharing observational techniques about their asteroid-hunting activities.

And prodigious hunters they are. Andrew Lowe, a noted Calgary geophysicist, has discovered over 250 asteroids – 110 in the past year alone.

Robert Hutsebaut, of Brussels, has submitted over 1000+ astrometric measures of 300 newly discovered NEO's. A number of these confirmations of NEO's can be seen in A/CC (http://www.hohmanntransfer.com/news.htm) in 2004 as cover photographs. Robert also discovered 13 new main belt objects in 2005.

Ulrich Wolff, 42, a land surveyor by day, discovered three asteroids in the early part of the year, including a main belt minor planet, 2005 BF2.

And Jeffrey Sue, a radiologist based in Honolulu, Hawaii, has the discovery of a main belt asteroid 2005 NV14 to his credit. Also Ulrich and Andrew were among those who photographed and tracked a very fast moving asteroid, 2005 FN. See the animation of this high-speed object at http://www.ras-observatory.org/ras/Research/ICRAR/Observers/2005FNjs/2005fnjs.htm .

All Five Hunters continue to attribute much of their success to the RAS Observatory, which has now achieved 1,502 NEO observations to the credit of its observers.

In fact, Ulrich Wolff, the founding father of the Five Hunters, helped the observatory earn its H06 designation code by submitting his RAS observations and measurements to the Minor Planet Center – the international oversight committee for naming and monitoring minor bodies in the solar system.

The RAS Observatory rents time to amateur astronomers who can access the same high-quality remote facilities that are currently also enjoyed by professional astronomers.

Located under the clear, dark skies of New Mexico, the observatory provides access to five sophisticated Takahashi telescope systems on Paramount robotic mounts, with sensitive CCD cameras and specialized filters available for various astrometric and astrophotographic projects – all of which can be accessed and controlled by individual users around the world via the Internet.

No special equipment or software is required to use the observatory; anyone with a computer – regardless of their level of astronomic experience – can quickly and easily learn to access and photograph deep space objects.

Partnering with the Five Hunters, the RAS Observatory posts many of their findings on its website. Plus it offers downloadable web-based seminars, such as Andrew Lowe’s discourse on Asteroid Discovery at http://www.ras-observatory.org/ras/Web_Seminars/web_seminars.html. A new seminar will be offered this Sunday, February 12, 2006 at Noon, MST. Check press release: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2006/2/prweb344476.htm

There are over 3,700 near-Earth orbiting objects, of which 736 are classified as potentially hazardous. Fortunately, there are Five Hunters out scanning the skies virtually every clear night. After all – asteroid Number 737 may be just around the corner, and these guys are looking to be the ones who bring it down.

For more information about the Five Hunters, visit the RAS Observatory website at http://www.ras-observatory.org. Additional information can be acquired by calling a live observatory representative at 714-501-8247, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Arnie Rosner