SFA Astronomers Discover an Asteroid

With the recent box-office successes of movies like Deep Impact and Armageddon, public awareness of the hazards of asteroid impacts has increased. The SFA observatory (Minor Planet Center Code 740) is part of a growing campaign to search for asteroids. On the night of August 13, 1999, Dr. Dan Bruton and graduate student Carleton Stewart discovered a new asteroid in the constellation Capricorn. Now named 1999 PQ3, the three-kilometer in diameter object is not on a crash course with the Earth, but will be monitored to improve our knowledge of its orbit. At present, its distance from the Earth has been measured to be approximately 200 million miles from the Earth (about 2 times the Earth-Sun distance). 1999 PQ3 is a temporary designation assigned by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This research project was supported by an SFA Faculty Research Grant. The asteroid was discovered using an 18-inch diameter telescope that was originally used by NASA for lunar studies prior to the Apollo program. This telescope has been in operation at SFA since 1976. The observatory director Dr. Norman Markworth developed the telescope and camera control software.

Information about other asteroids found at the SFA Observatory will be added here later. For more information see Minor Planet Research at SFA.

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Dan Bruton