Guide to Minor Body AstrometryThis guide is intended for those observers interested in undertaking an astrometric CCD-observing program of minor planet and/or comets.
This document was last updated 2013 October 2.
The following questions will be posed, then answered:
- What equipment do I need? [Updated 2013 Jan. 5]
- What sort of CCD should I use?
- How do I make measurements?
- Where should I obtain my comparison star coordinates? [Updated 2013 Jan. 5]
- What corrections should I apply to the derived positions?
- How do I obtain an accurate time?
- What do I report? [Updated 2013 Jan. 5]
- Are there any recommendations regarding e-mail?
- What if I use spam-blocking systems?
- What are some common mistakes?
- Can I report approximate or preliminary measures?
- The observation format requires an observatory code. I don't have a code. How do I get one? [Updated 2013 Jan. 5]
- Does my observatory code move with me?
- Are there any restrictions on my observatory's name?
- How do I begin?
- How many observations should I make of each object?
- What objects should I be observing?
- What quality of measurements should I aim to produce?
- Do I need to identify objects?
- When should I use a discovery asterisk?
- How do I know that the Minor Planet Center has received my observations?
- What about batches containing observations from two or more observatory codes?
- A message to the MPC bounced. Do I need to resend it? [Updated 2013 Jan. 5]
- I think I have something new. How do I get a provisional designation assigned to it? [Updated 2013 Jan. 5]
- What is the difference between reporting two-nighter and single-nighter new objects?
- Who gets credit when single nighters are linked?
- What objects go on to the NEOCP? [Updated 2013 November 5]
- How long does it take to assign a new provisional designation?
- How do I understand the designations the Center sends me?
- What's the best way to follow-up a new discovery?
- What about coverage on a single night?
- What if I can't follow-up a new discovery?
- Should I separate my comet and minor-planet observations when submitting them?
- Should I check my observations before reporting them to the Center?
- How quickly are observations processed by the MPC?
- What's the best way to get my discovery numbered?
- When can I name my discovery?
- What names are acceptable?
- How do I write the citation and submit the name? [Updated 2013 October 2]
- How long does it take for the name to be approved? [Updated 2013 October 2]
- What happens to accepted observations?
- What is the purpose of the contact details?
- What (p)recovered objects get MPECs?
- I'm interested in photometry...
You will also need a computer to capture the images and software to perform the reductions. Various software packages are advertised in popular astronomy magazines:
- Herbert Raab's Astrometrica
- John Rogers' CCD Astrometry
- Project Pluto's Charon
- Bob Denny's PinPoint
- BdW Publishing's Canopus
- Software Bisque's TheSky + CCDSoft
An accurate clock/watch set to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is a must and this must be checked regularly (as a minimum, at the start of each observing session) against a reliable standard.
Access to e-mail is also important, both for reporting observations to and receiving designations from the Minor Planet Center (MPC).
- see below]), the program should then
do a least-squares plate-constants (LSPC) solution to derive the unknown
coordinates of the minor bodies. Be suspicious of any package that does
not do a proper LSPC solution!
You must not attempt to derive positions by overlaying charts on your images or by estimating positions by eye. The accuracy of these positions will not be sufficient.
It is the recommendation of the Minor Planet Center that observers should migrate to using the UCAC-4 catalogue.
The following sources MUST NOT be used for comparison-star coordinates:
- The World Coordinate System information in the FITS headers for images in the Digital Sky Survey (whether accessed via the Web or via the highly-compressed CD-ROM version).
- Any B1950.0 star catalogue (e.g., SAO Catalogue).
Naval Observatory's Time Service Department. This link also contains
information on programs that you can use to automatically set your
computer's clock, as well as the Network Time Protocol. Note that due
to the unpredictable delays in Internet transmission such programs
should be used in preference to the in-lined clock displayed by your
browser when accessing this site.
Various radio stations around the world transmit UTC. The following table of stations is reproduced from the British Astronomical Association Handbook by kind permission of Max White.
Station Call Transmission Time of Details of Sign Frequencies Transmission Signal /KHz Mainflingen, Germany DCF77 77.5 continuous Second marker 100 ms Minute marker 500 ms 59s omitted Prangins, Switzerland HBG 75 continuous Markers interruptions of carrier wave. Second marker 10ms; minute marker double pulse; hour maeker triple pulse Moscow, Russia RWM 4996 continuous Except 08 & 38m past hour 9996 Morse ID 09 & 39m 14996 Fort Collins, U.S.A. WWV 2500 continuous Second marker 5 ms pulse (29s and 59s omitted) 5000 Minute marker 800 ms pulse 10000 Male voice announcement 52s-60s 15000 20000 Kauai, Hawaii WWVH 2500 continuous Second marker 5 ms pulse (29s and 59s omitted) 5000 Minute marker 800 ms pulse 10000 Female voice announcement 45s-52.5s 15000 20000 Ottawa, Canada CHU 3330 continuous Second marker 01s-28s 7335 30s-50s 14670 Minute marker 500 ms pulse 51s-59s Long hour marker Puncheng, China BPM 5000 continuous Second marker 10ms; minute marker continuous 30m. 10000 continuous Call sign in Morse and voice at 29-30m and 59-60m. 15000 0100-0900 UTC time signals give out at 00-10, 15-25, 30-40, Z tranmsission 45-55m. Chung-Li, China BSF 5000 continuous Second marker 5ms; minute marker 300ms 15000 except 35-40m Taejon, S. Korea HLA 5000 continuous Second marker 20 ms Minute marker 800 ms at 1000 Hz tone Hour marker 800 ms at 1500 Hz tone Voice announcement 52s Nazaki, Japan JG2AS/ 40 continuous Second marker 500ms; 59th second 200-ms JJF-2 interruption of carrier wave. Morse call sign at 15 and 45m. Buenos Aires, LOL1 5000 1700-1800 Morse ID; voice 04, 09. Then every 5m Argentina 10000 2000-2100 past hour 2300-2400 Caracas, Venezuela YVTO 6100 continuous Second marker 100 ms pulse 52s-57s voice announcement of time Minute marker 500 ms pulse 30s marker omitted
- format for
reporting astrometric observations.
Please read this document carefully
and report the observations in the correct format (noting that the UTC time
of observation should be reported to 0.00001 day, the R.A. to 0s.01,
the Decl. to 0".1, and that magnitudes should not be reported more
precisely than 0.1 mag.). The reduction packages mentioned in
question 1 should produce this format automatically.
Observations of both minor planets and comets, formatted as specified in the link above, must be reported via e-mail to email@example.com.
Do not report more than one position for each time of observation!
When there is no trailing of the minor planet image (or you are measuring the middle of a trail) the time of observation is the mid-exposure time. If you are measuring both ends of a trail, then one end is associated with the start of the exposure, the other with the end. Alternatively, if the trail is very short, you can simply report the mid-point. However, you must not report both a trail-end and mid-point measures from the same trail.
Note that reported magnitudes must be derived from the individual frames: do not obtain a magnitude from one frame and then copy it on all the other observations! Also, ensure that you report the magnitudes with the astrometry: do not say "Photometry to follow"!
Always report positions for every moving object in your images. Do not assume that just because an object is numbered that continuing observations are not important. The inclusion of well-known objects, particularly when there are also observations of unidentified objects, serves as a useful check of the quality of your measurements.
The former submission address mpc@cfa is deprecated. It will continue to work for observation submissions until 2013 Mar. 1. On this date, forwarding of observations batches to the automated routines will cease.
- Observations must be reported as plain ASCII files. Do not send, e.g., UUENCODE'd or BINHEX'ed files! This is important if you are using e-mail attachements.
- Please ensure that your mailer does not split the 80-column observation records--many mailers, such as PINE, will automatically break a line at about 72 characters. In PINE you can avoid this problem if the observations you wish to send are in a separate file by including the file using CTRL-R, rather than by using cut and paste.
- If you are using a mailer that can send HTML mail, please disable the
inclusion of the HTML version. Inclusion of the HTML version more than
doubles the length of the e-mail and the repetition of material is
completely useless. In addition, the inclusion of HTML text may trigger
the MPC's antispam e-mail filters, causing your message to be flagged
Information on disabling HTML e-mail for users in some mail clients is available. Information on sending plain-text e-mails from Hotmail is here.
- Never send any kind of word-processor/DTP file! If you use a word processor or DTP package to prepare your observations, ensure that you use the package's `Save as ASCII' option.
Note that "Allowed Sender" systems will not work with our automated routines that send out information as e-mail returned to certain addresses will bounce.
A: Incorrectly-Identified ObjectsIf you try to identify objects, ensure that the identifications are correct and that you used the packed forms of the designations in the appropriate columns of the observational records. If in doubt, use temporary designations.
B: Incorrect Times of ObservationsEnsure that the mid-points of your exposures are timed and reported correctly! The most common error by observers (and one of the trickiest to correct if the observation has already been published) is incorrect observation times (or occasionally even dates!).
C: Non-ASCII SubmissionsEnsure that you send only plain ASCII e-mails. Encoded attachments will be ignored by the automated processing routines.
D: Incorrectly-Specified Observer DetailsIf you do not include an observational header before the observations, the e-mail message will not be recognized as containing observations.
Some observers specify observer details in the form used in the MPCs. These details are usually nicely formatted, but the observation processing routines will ignore them. Observer details must be formatted in the proper format.
The first time you submit astrometric observations (see Q. 15 for details on what observations your initial batch must contain), you must report:
- A snail-mail address (used as a contact address on the observatory headers in the Minor Planet Circulars);
- An observatory name and site name;
- Longitude, in degrees, minutes and seconds (not decimal degrees)
E of the Greenwich meridian, in the WGS-84 system.
To avoid any possible confusion, avoid using negative longitudes. Give a
longitude as either:
- a specific number of degrees E or W (being sure to state which direction) of the Greenwich meridian (avoid the use of negative quantities);
- a specific number of degrees E of Greenwich (according to the IAU convention). If a site is just west of the Greenwich meridian, give the longitude as a quantity near 360°, not as a negative quantity.
- Latitude, in degrees, minutes and seconds (not decimal degrees) N or S of the equator, in the WGS-84 system;
- Altitude (in meters above sea-level);
- The source for the specified coordinates (e.g., Google Earth, named map, etc.);
- Details of your telescope setup.
The longitude and latitude must be specified to an arcsecond or better. A useful tool for determining your site's coordinates is the Google Earth package: you should quote your long. and lat. to a precision of 0".1 or better. Note that we now use Google Earth to check out the given coordinates. If we have a query as to the location, we may ask for clarification based on our description of the environment shown around the given coordinates in Google Earth.
If you do not use Google Earth, it is important to note that the longitude and latitude that you supply must be geographic coordinates, not geocentric coordinates.
It is also important that you specify COD XXX in the observation header for your initial batch. Do NOT use, for example, COD 000 or COD 999, as these are assigned codes and may cause your initial batch to be processed as if it contained observations from the code you used. Neither should you attempt to use a currently-unused code.
A convenient way to supply the above information in a form that is preserved by the automated processing routines is to use the COM keyword. E.g.:
COM Long. 239 18 45 E, Lat. 33 54 11 N, Alt. 100m, Google Earth
Note that if you request an observatory code during MPC preparation time, you will experience a longer than usual delay before an observatory code is assigned. Note also that assignment of new codes is done in batches every week or so.
If you fail to supply sufficient observations in your initial batch or fail to supply all required information, you will experience a longer than usual delay before an observatory code is assigned.
No, in the sense that we cannot dictate what you choose to call your observatory.
Yes, in the sense that we don't have to use your observatory's name in the MPCs.
However, we are fairly liberal in the observatory names that we allow into the MPCs. At least two amateur-owned sites have names with connections to the popular TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation. Where is the dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable? This is determined on a case-by-case basis. Using a popular character from the well-known TV series The X Files as an example, "Scully Observatory" would probably be acceptable, but "ScullyIsAGoddess Observatory" wouldn't.
You should not start by observing fast-moving objects! It is important that you gain experience by observing "routine" objects before attempting to observe "unusual" objects. We also expect you to prove that you can produce good astrometry of known objects before you begin to discover new objects.
Even if you interested only in comets, it is required that you follow these guidelines for your initial batch. In general, comets are harder to measure than minor planets. If we have a new observer reporting comet observations of bad or indifferent quality we do not know if it is simply a problem due to the comet (big, bright difficult-to-measure image) or a problem with the measurement/reduction process. If we have received minor planets from a new observer in the initial batch, we will have already have determined that the measurement/reduction process is acceptable.
You should not make only one observation of each object per night. Neither should you make many more than three observations per objects per night--it is a waste of your time and rarely helps the orbit solution.
However, to make observations of a potentially new object in groups many hours apart on a single night can be useful, particularly in the case of an newly-discovered object that may be close to the earth.
For multi-opposition objects the preferable regimen of observing is observations on pairs on night in each dark run around each opposition until the object is numbered.
- Minor Planet Electronic Circulars.
Some observers have set up their own web pages, generally to encourage follow-up their own discoveries. Such sites are collected together here.
Ephemerides for minor planets can be generated using the Minor Planet Ephemeris Service.
- MPC are most efficient when
observers do not try to identify objects, except as described in the
following sentence. Note that observations of
NEOCP objects must always be tagged with their NEOCP designations
and observations of designated NEOs and comets should be tagged with
their provisional or permanent designations, as must the initial
observations made in support of an observatory code request.
However, every reported observation must have a designation. If you don't know the designation of a particular object, or are not bothering to identify objects, use an observer-assigned temporary designation.
- Observations of the same object on different nights must be given the same temporary designation only if they reported in the same message and you are absolutely positive that all the nights refer to the same object. Correspondences of observer-assigned temporary and MPC-assigned provisional designations will be reported back to the observer via e-mail.
- Observer-assigned temporary designations should be unique--don't call everything `X'!
- Observer-assigned temporary designations should be six characters or less long, and begin in column 6 of the observational record.
- Observer-assigned temporary designations must not be of the form of the packed or unpacked designations used by the MPC. Note that this now includes the form single letter followed by four digits.
- Do not continue to use your observer-assigned designations once official provisional or permanent designations have been assigned.
Discovery asterisks on submitted observations must only appear on observations with observer-assigned temporary designations. They must never appear on submitted observations with MPC-assigned designations.
- Information on how to personalize
the acknowledgement is available.
The acknowledgement now contains a 'junk' rating for the message that was submitted. The junk rating is the percentage of the submitted message that was not useful (i.e., material that was not observational records, observational header or e-mail header). Many messages arrive with junk ratings of more than 50 percent (in some cases, more than 90 percent!). If you get a poor junk rating, you should examine what you are actually sending and try and cut out some of the junk that some PC mailers seem to insert.
Note also that the acknowledgement is automatic and simply informs you that we have received your message. It says nothing about the formatting of the observations contained therein or their quality.
COD 608 OBS ... MEA ... ... Rest of header ... Observations from code 608 COD 644 OBS ... MEA ... ... Rest of header ... Observations from code 644Failure to format the message as shown above will result in the batch being rejected by the automated routines. Note that later headers do not inherit anything from earlier headers. So you must include, at a minimum, OBS/MEA/TEL/NET lines on later headers.
It all depends on the source of the bounceback message. obs@cfa is an e-mail alias that forwards incoming messages to two different user accounts: one is a personal e-mail accounts of MPC staff members; the second is the e-mail account for the AUTOACK procedure (the automated routine that sends out acknowledgements and that extracts messages into the processing queues).
You should resend your message if the bounceback indicates that autoack@ubasti or obs@cfa is the source of the failure.
You do not need to resend your message if the bounceback comes from any other e-mail address.
Note that following the Editorial Note on MPEC 2010-U20 the assigmment of a new provisional designation does not mean that you will be credited with the discovery of the object when it is numbered. The afore-mentioned MPEC should be read to see the new rules regarding discovery credit and the grandfathering of old multiple-opposition objects. The use of the terms "discoverer" and "discovery" in this document are to be interpretd according to those rules.
New designations are assigned upon the receipt of observations from two nights, not necessarily from the same observer. The two nights should be fairly close together, certainly within a week of each other. See the note on the required coverage on each night. You may use the on-line New Object Ephemeris Generator to generate ephemerides to enable you to find the object after the first night.
If there are a number of observers involved at a particular site and assignment of credit for the discovery of particular objects is important, ensure that the observer-assigned temporary designations reflect the names of the discoverers. For example, at a particular site there are three observers--Byers, Frohike and Langly. Objects discovered by Byers alone are reported with temporary designations beginning By (e.g., By0001), objects discovered by Byers and Langly jointly by designations beginning BL or ByLa (e.g., BL0001 or ByLa01). Similarly, designations beginning FrLa indicate objects discovered by Frohike and Langly.
It is preferred that discoveries are made by a single individual, although discoveries by pairs of discoverers are accepted. Claims for discoveries of specific objects by three or more discoverers are treated as site discoveries, where no individuals are named as the discoverer. An exception to this is allowed for discoveries of TNOs, where up to four individuals may be listed, recognizing the difficulty of obtaining sufficient observations of these (typically very) faint objects.
Note that this linking process requires the earlier observations be on a different night (at least 12 hours separation) and to be of good quality (the automated routines currently reject linkages where one or more observations appear to be off by 1".5 or more).
When removed from the NEOCP, the inner-solar-system objects that get put on to MPECs are as follows:
- Any object with perihelion distance less than 1.3 AU
- Any object with an perihelion distance beyond 5.5 AU (Centaurs/SDO and TNOs are not listed in only one-opposition)
- "Main-belt" objects with eccentricities above 0.5
In the past, objects with perihelia beyond 1.3 AU and eccentricities between 0.4 and 0.5 and/or inclinations above 40 degrees might appear on an MPEC if there was not much activity. This was deemed to be somewhat arbitrary (particularly in light of the fact that the major surveys were counting how many discovery MPECs they had!).
If it turns out that an NEOCP object is identical to an object that has already received a provisional designation that has been published in the MPCs and the MPSs (i.e., the permanent publications), the observations that have already been published are not republished on the MPEC announcing the object (i.e., a temporary publication). Such cases are indicated by the lack of a discovery asterisk amongst the listed observations and the use of 'Additional observations' as a heading, rather than 'Observations'.
Note that objects that are placed on the NEO Confirmation Page will not be assigned designations until they are removed from the page.
If observations are received at the MPC before 4 p.m. local time, we try, but cannot guarantee, to assign new designations that same day.
Note that all newly-assigned designations are provisional: they are only finalised when the observations are published in the next MPS batch. Each month a number of newly-assigned designations are retracted before the observations are published: such designations are flagged as being "omitted".
By0001 (03244 ByLa01 J99A18T ByLa02 (J81U78A By0004 (By0003 By0003 (J99A08HThis may be interpreted as follows: By0001 is the numbered object (3244); ByLa01 is a new object 1999 AT18 that is credited to Byers and Langly; ByLa02 is the known unnumbered object 1981 UA78; By0003 and By0004 refer to the same object, now designated 1999 AH8, which is a recent discovery by another team.
In short, provisional and permanent designations not prefaced with `(' are your discoveries. Note that if you are mining data from some source other than your own setup (e.g., SkyMorph), the lack of `(' indicates only that the designation is newly assigned, as credit for the discovery lies with the producer of the mined data (e.g, NEAT in the case of observations measured from SkyMorph data). Provisional and permanent designations will be in the packed form, as used on the observation record.
New designations are not assigned to objects observed on only one night, although you may receive designations if such objects can be identified with already-known objects.
Observers with at least one discovery credit may request the (roughly) monthly receipt of a DISCSTATUS report, which lists their discoveries, as well the current disposition of each object. Requests to be added to the mailing list for DISCSTATUS reports must be made to the normal submission address (subject line must be "DISCSTATUS" and the message must indicate to which e-mail address the report is to be mailed).
- Minor Planet Ephemeris Service.
There really is no point in following a new object night after night. Further
observations can then be made between fifteen and twenty days after
discovery (if the Moon permits). Further
pairs of nights of observations can be obtained in following months
for as long as the object is visible and remains unidentified.
Note that for new objects, it is imperative that you get at least 30 minutes of coverage on each of the nights. As a general rule, the MPC will not assign designations to MB objects observed on only two nights where the coverage on one or both nights is less than 30 minutes.
If you are stacking images, try and ensure that you produce at least two stacks (remembering that the stacks have to be independent, so an image cannot be used in more than one stack). If you can produce only one stack, ensure that the observation is marked as a stack ("K" in column 14). If you produce more than one stack, mark the observations as stacked unless there is another note you wish to use (such as "F" or "V"). If you are observing at a site that uses codes to distinguish between different programs, the "K" should appear on the submitted observation, but will be replaced by the program code during processing.
The observations will be subject to the normal checking procedures of the Minor Planet Center but will be published only if they can be identified with some already-designated object. They are then checked against recent one-night stands. If a match is found the object can receive a designation. The discovery will be credited to the earlier observation: if earlier undesignated observations are then identified, the discovery credit does not change. If no match is forthcoming, the one-night stand observations are filed. These files are checked regularly against new orbits and matches are extracted and published under the already-assigned designation.
If you wish someone else to follow-up your new discovery, you may use the New Object Ephemeris Generator to generate ephemerides to enable your colleague to find the object after the first night.
If someone does follow-up for your new objects, you will get credit for the discovery even if you have obtained only one night's observations. However, there is nothing preventing your colleague from getting two nights on your new object and then reporting it to us as a new object. In such a case, credit will be given to your colleague. For this reason, you should not distribute observations of the new object and you should only send ephemerides to colleagues that you trust.
It is recommended, however, that if you are reporting a possible new NEO, that you include "NEOCP" in the subject line of your e-mail (alternatives are "NEO" or "FMO"). Possible new comets (that are not on the NEOCP) should have "COMET" in the subject line. Similarly, use "TNO" or "SAT" for batches containing observations of potential new TNOs or natural satellites.
- format is advisable.
We do not recommend that you check the residuals of your observations
before submitting them.
If observers decide to check the residuals for known objects prior to submission, they are advised to use the consistency of the residuals (particularly night-to-night), rather than the size of them, as the discriminator for rejecting observations.
A careful observer with normal equipment is quite capable of obtaining nightly measures that are consistent to within a few tenths of a second of arc.
- "New" FMOs, comets and potential NEOs/unusual objects, suitable for posting on the NEO Confirmation Page.
- Follow-up observations of NEOCP objects.
- Other NEO observations.
- Survey observations from last night and recent non-survey material.
- Older non-survey material.
- Survey observations from before last night.
Observations that are not submitted in the proper format are subject to delay.
Note that the different processing classes are dealt with at different rates. This should not affect the order in which "new" objects are processed.
Once identified (or recovered as a result of a direct search), observations should be made on pairs on nights in each of two dark runs at each opposition until the object is numbered. For main-belt objects this can occur after the object has been observed at four oppositions (although this depends on the number and distribution [preferably two nights in each of two dark runs in at least three of the oppositions] of the observations as well as their quality); NEOs can receive a number after two or three well-observed oppositions. In addition, objects to be numbered require the uncertainty parameter, U, must be less than or equal to two. Note that newly-identified multiple-opposition objects are not eligible for numbering: numbering of such objects can only take place after the first multiple-opposition orbit has appeared in the MPCs and after further observations have been reported (these can be at the latest opposition, or at an earlier or subsequent opposition).
The selection of objects for numbering is an automatic process performed just before the preparation of each batch of MPCs. There is no need to ask us "What do I need to do to get such-and-such numbered?". Simply follow the guidelines above and the object will be numbered when it is ready.
- Names for minor planets are proposed
by the discoverer of a specific object after the object is numbered.
Proposals are accompanied by a brief citation explaining the reasons
for the naming.
Proposed names are judged by the fifteen-member Committee on Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) of the International Astronomical Union. Except in very unusual circumstances, new names may not be assigned until a minimum of two months have elapsed since the objects were numbered. If the CSBN has objections to the name or the accompanying citation, this process can take much longer.
Names become official when they are published in the Minor Planet Circulars. Note that the CSBN condemns the preannouncement of names, even if any such preannouncement indicates that a name is only a proposal.
When several provisional designations belong to the same numbered minor planet, one of these provisional designations is defined as the prinicipal designations (this is decided when the object is first identified) and it is the discoverer of this principally-designated object that is defined as the discoverer of the numbered object.
An alphabetical list of current minor planet names is available. A list of the discovery circumstances of the numbered minor planets is available.
Other than those restrictions, almost any other type of name is acceptable.
Names should not be too similar to an existing name. In order to check whether your proposed name (or one very similar) has been used already, consult the the alphabetical list of minor-planet names and use your browser's 'Find' facility.
Names should preferably be one word. For individuals, use the surname (family name) if possible. If you run two or more parts of a individual's name together to make the name, do not use mid-word capitalization. Proposers should remember that names of minor planets are not the same as the names of people. Ideally, if a name is to honor a person, it should simply "suggest" that person, in a manner that is as unobtrusive as possible.
Please remember that the purpose of naming minor planets is for identification, not commemoration.
Note that the CSBN reserves the right to edit the citation for publication.
We are transitioning to requiring discoverers
- There is a special format for submitting names. This format is necessary
to expedite processing of the proposal. The first line consist of an
"index entry" containing the proposed name, the number of the object
to which the name is to be applied and a very short summary of the citation.
Then follows a blank line. Then the citation in the form that it will
appear in the MPCs. Single name proposals or batches of proposals
must be e-mailed to
The index line can extend to column 80, but the other lines must not go beyond column 78. Lines must have ragged-right margins (i.e, do not right-justify the lines), neither should words be hyphenated across line breaks. Submitted files must be plain ASCII: do not send any kind of WP/DTP/HTML file! Diacritical marks must be indicated in the TeX format.
- There is a special format for submitting names. This format is necessary to expedite processing of the proposal. The first line consist of an "index entry" containing the proposed name, the number of the object to which the name is to be applied and a very short summary of the citation. Then follows a blank line. Then the citation in the form that it will appear in the MPCs. Single name proposals or batches of proposals must be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is best illustrated with a couple of examples from the batch of names in the 2000 Jan. 24 batch of MPCs (the column ruler at the top is simply to show you where the entries in the index line fall: e.g., the index description begins in column 31 and the number ends in column 27):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 12345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890 Flagsymphony 6582 Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra (6582) Flagsymphony = 1981 VS Discovered 1985 Nov. 5 by E. Bowell at the Anderson Mesa Station of the Lowell Observatory. The Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its 50th season in 1999-2000. It is considered by many to be the best symphony orchestra in a small community in the U.S.A. Baton Rouge 11739 Louisiana state capital (11739) Baton Rouge = 1998 SG27 Discovered 1998 Sept. 25 by W. R. Cooney, Jr. and M. Collier at Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge, the Louisiana state capital, is located on the banks of the Mississippi river and derives its name, French for ``red stick'', from an Indian marker at the site seen by a French expedition in 1699. The city is home to the Highland Road Park Observatory, where this minor planet was discovered.When printed in the MPCs the example citations above took up 2.2 and 3.8 lines, respectively.
It there are multiple names being proposed at the same time, each index-citation block is separated from other blocks by a blank line, as in the example above.
Submitted citations are subject to editing.
- Minor Planet Circulars (MPCs).
Batches of new name proposals are sent to the CSBN every two months. All
accepted names from the batches sent to the committee will appear in the
next batch of MPCs. There is no set deadline for submitting names. If you want a name to appear
in a particular MPC batch you should submit the name at least ten
weeks in advance. Note that appearance in any particular batch cannot
be guaranteed, especially if there are problems with the name or citation.
Minor Planet Circulars (MPCs) (and on the occasional
Minor Planet Electronic Circulars).
Early observations of new comets may be published in the
International Astronomical Union
From time to time, the question arises as to whether inclusion of observations in the MPCs can be construed as publication in the `refereed' astronomical literature. The Minor Planet Center stresses most emphatically that astrometric observations of comets and minor planets submitted for publication in the MPCs are indeed subjected to close, critical study, and that erroneous observations are returned to their authors for amendment. Particular care is taken to ensure that all observations presented are correctly identified. The MPCs are designed specifically to handle the publication of astrometric observations of comets and minor planets and there is no need also to publish in other journals.
for each observatory code are intended as a contact point for persons with
queries regarding a specific program. The contact address does not have
to be the street address of the observatory. For professional programs it
should be noted that the contact details are NOT intended to be a list of
P.I.s on the project.
The contact details MUST include:
- the name of a person connected with the program (who is willing to answer queries about the presented observations)
- a snail-mail address for that person (this can be a P.O. Box)
- an e-mail address for that person
Precovery refers to the identification of images of a single-apparition object at an earlier opposition.
- guide to minor planet photometry is available from Brian Warner.