• Preparing MPCs (Info)

  • The Animations Page

    Here are links to a number of animations prepared by the maintainer of this website. They are not intended as rigorous depictions of the past and future motions of the objects concerned (although at the scales of these diagrams, any difference would probably not be noticeable in most cases), rather they are intended to assist in understanding the state of knowledge about the contents of the solar system ("A picture is worth a thousand words").

    Unless otherwise stated, the animations are drawn as seen from the north ecliptic pole with the vernal equinox off to the right.

    The animations are currently available as animated GIFs (in two different sizes), other formats may be added in the future.

    Any use of these animations for anything other than your own personal enjoyment is not permitted without our express permission.


    The Inner Solar System

    This animation shows the motion of objects in the inner region of the solar system over a two-year period at 10-day intervals. The sun is the yellow symbol at the center of each frame. The orbits of the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are shown in light blue, with the current locations of each planet being shown by large crossed circles. Main-belt minor planets are shown as green circles, Near-Earth asteroids as red circles. Comets are shown as blue squares (filled for numbered periodic comets, outline for other comets).

    This animation (prepared 2002 July 31) is available as:

    A newer version (prepared 2011 April 17) is available as:


    The Middle Solar System

    This animation shows the motion of objects in the inner- to mid-region of the solar system over a two-year period. The animation shows objects out to the orbit of Jupiter and a little beyond. The meaning of the symbols is as for the Inner Solar System animation: additionally, Jupiter and its orbit are now shown and the Jupiter Trojans, which orbit in the same orbit as Jupiter but roughly 60 degrees ahead or behind the planet, are colored blue.

    This animation shows the vast bulk of the objects tracked by the MPC. The total number of objects shown is more than 100000.

    This animation (prepared 2002 July 31) is available as:

    A newer version (prepared 2011 April 17) is available as:


    The Outer Solar System

    This animation shows the motions of objects in the outer solar system, beyond the orbit of Jupiter, over a 100-year period at 200-day intervals. The orbits and current locations of the Jovian planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) are shown. The current location of Pluto is indicated by the large white crossed circle. High-eccentricity objects are shown with cyan triangles, Centaurs as orange triangles, Plutinos as white circles, "Classical" TNOs as red circles and Scattered-Disk Objects as magenta circles.

    NOTE: The strange behavior exhibited by the comets (a general heading inwards prior to the mid 1990s and a general heading outwards post 2000) is a consequence of plotting only those comets currently observable (as of mid 2002). Around this date, all of the long-period comets would have been at or near perihelion. Fifty years either side of this date they are all far from the sun. If the full cometary catalogue had been plotted, this effect would not be so noticeable as there would be inbound and outbound comets visible on each pre-2002 frame.

    This animation (prepared 2002 July 31) is available as:

    A newer version (prepared 2011 April 17) is available as:


    The Near-Earth Environment 2007-8

    This animation hitches a ride on the earth and observes its near-space environment for a period of one year at daily intervals starting in July 2007. No objects are displayed that are more than 20 million km from the earth. Objects within one-third of this distance are colored red, objects within two-thirds are colored orange, other objects are green. Objects below the ecliptic plane are shown as outline circles, objects above as filled circles. Objects may appear and disappear in seemingly odd locations, depending on how their orbits intersect the sphere enclosing the volume of space within 20 million km of the earth. Notable close approaches during the period occur on 2007 Sept. 5 (2007 RS1), Oct. 12 (2007 TX22), Oct. 17 (2007 UN12), Oct. 18 (2007 UD6), Oct. 30 (2007 US51), Nov. 14 (2007 VF189), Dec. 13 (2007 XB23), Dec. 27 (2007 YP56), 2008 Jan. 31 (2008 BC15), Feb. 7 (2008 CT1), Mar. 9 (2008 EZ7), Mar. 10 (2008 EM68), Mar. 29 (2008 FP), Apr. 3 (2008 GM2), Apr. 7 (2008 GF1) and May 10 (2008 JL24). Most of the objects depicted in this animation are recent discoveries.

    The symbol representing Earth is not to scale: at the scale of these plots, the earth would be about a quarter pixel across on the larger plot and about a tenth of a pixel on the smaller plot.

    This animation (prepared 2008 July 1) is available as:


    The Near-Earth Environment 2002

    This animation hitches a ride on the earth and observes its near-space environment for a period of one year at daily intervals. No objects are displayed that are more than 20 million km from the earth. Objects within one-third of this distance are colored red, objects within two-thirds are colored orange, other objects are green. Objects below the ecliptic plane are shown as outline circles, objects above as filled circles. Objects may appear and disappear in seemingly odd locations, depending on how their orbits intersect the sphere enclosing the volume of space within 20 million km of the earth. Notable close approaches in 2002 occur on Jan. 7 (2001 YB5), Feb. 5 (2002 CA26), Feb. 8 (2002 CB26), Mar. 8 (2002 EM7), Mar. 31 (2002 GQ), Apr. 6 (2002 FD6), June 14 (2002 MN) and Aug. 18 (2002 NY40). Most of the objects depicted in this animation are recent discoveries. The apparent dearth of objects after the start of September is caused by the fact that we haven't yet discovered most of the objects that will making close approaches in the months ahead: the only objects displayed are those that were discovered in previous years.

    The symbol representing Earth is not to scale: at the scale of these plots, the earth would be about a quarter pixel across on the larger plot and about a tenth of a pixel on the smaller plot. This animation (prepared 2002 July 31) is available as:


    How These Animations Were Made...

    All the individual frames for the older animations have been generated on a Professional Workstation XP1000 running OpenVMS 7.2-1 using custom-written Fortran software that utilizes the PGPLOT graphics library. The individual frames for the newer animations have been generated on a Personal Workstation 600au running OpenVMS 8.3 using updated versions of the above-mentioned software. In all case, the animated GIFs were generated from these individual frames (the title frames were generated using Draw and Paint) using InterGif on a Risc PC running RISC OS 4.03.