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2003 NZ6 (A personal account of a brief encounter with an Aten)

Follow-up observations

Even though the NEO was travelling quite fast after discovery it was also relatively bright around mag +16 to +17, important for accurate astrometric reduction.

The astrometry reported from all observatories was of very high quality, the final MPC orbit using 132 positions has a mean residual of just 0".39.

Observations were reported during the apparition on the following days from the observatories listed:


IAU Observatory code

2003 118 151 176 636 649 704 966 A50 J95
July 09           5 1   8


Discovery & confirmation
July 10 10 10       14 3   6 43  
July 11         4     12 4 20  
July 12     5         10   15 Passes N of +68 dec
July 13       3           3  
July 14   8   4 6         18  
July 15                   0  
July 16         6         6  
July 17                   0 Closest to Earth 23:27UT
July 18         9       3 12 Passes S of +68 dec
July 19                 1 1  
July 20                 2 2  

Total positions reported:


Because of problems with the CCD camera fouling the fork mount of the telescope at high declinations, 2003 NZ6 could not be followed at Great Shefford higher than +68 dec. 

This meant that the last possible night of observation before its close approach was July 11/12th, but there was also the possibility of catching it after close approach as it sank down to the northern horizon. The night of July 18/19th would be the first chance, with the object at mag +18.8V and the next night would probably be the last, with the object only about 20 above the horizon, at an elongation from the Sun of just 39 and at a predicted mag of +19.7V and moving at 18"/minute it would be a difficult target.

Both the night of the 18th and the night of the 19th were generally clear at Great Shefford but with some drifting cloud. 2003 NZ6 was recorded without problem on the 18th, the image below being a 10 x 8 second stack and recording it well enough to be measured. Note that several frames had to be left out due to drifting cloud:

The following night it was more of a problem, a run of 53 x 10 second exposures was made, but with cloud spoiling some of the images and the asteroid passing very close to the brightest star in the field only 39 of the images could actually be used to identify the asteroid. the resulting image shows the asteroid faintly recorded:

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