Last updated 16 Feb 2021

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Custom Software used at Great Shefford

Pack / Unpack designations

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Pack / Unpack Minor Planet Center comet and asteroid designations software overview

This program takes Minor Planet Center comet and minor planet designations and converts both ways between packed and unpacked formats. The converted designation is copied to the clipboard for ease of use.

Most current types of designations are handled, including:

  • Minor Planet permanent numbers from 1 - 619999
  • Minor Planet permanent numbers from 620000 - 15396335 (i.e. covering the base 62 packed form announced in MPEC 2019-O55)
  • Minor Planet new-style provisional designations (e.g. 2021 CG9)
  • Minor Planet designations from the Palomar-Leiden and first, second and Third Trojan Surveys (see Survey Designations)
  • Comet permanent numbers
  • Comet provisional designations in cometary style (e.g. C/2021 A10)
  • Comet provisional designations in minor planet style (e.g. P/2019 GG21)
  • Split comets in permanent and provisional styles
  • A/ objects and Interstellar objects

Note: Old-style provisional designations are NOT handled, see Old-Style Provisional Designations)

Where there is no ambiguity, letters that are entered in the wrong case are corrected as a convenience to the user, e.g. if comet designation c/2019 y4-d is entered, the program will correct the lower case letters to upper case and display:
  • C/2019 Y4-D for the unpacked designation of a split comet and
  • CK19Y04d for the packed version of the same object

There are occasions when this is not possible, e.g. Packed cometary provisional designation PK16J01b relates to fragment B of split comet P/2016 J1. But PK16J01B is a minor planet style designation which would convert to comet P/2016 JB1, completely unrelated to comet P/2016 J1 (and does not in fact exist). Note that the program attempts to convert the designations depending on the format entered, it does not check whether those designations have actually been issued by the Minor Planet Center.

Here are some examples of conversions:

Provisional periodic comet fragment designation:

Permanently numbered periodic comet fragment:

Permanently numbered minor planet:

Permanently numbered minor planet (in base 62 packed format):

Provisional minor planet designation:

Provisional minor planet designation from Palomar-Leiden Survey:


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