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2003 TQ3 (Third asteroid discovery from Great Shefford)

These images show both 2003 TK and the new discovery 2003 TQ3, but have been stacked to compensate for the motion of 2003 TK only. The image of 2003 TQ3 is therefore elongated because it was moving at a different speed and direction to 2003 TK.

A set of 90 images were obtained on the night of 4/5 Oct 2003 of the NEO 2003 TK, which at the time was listed as a virtual impactor.

The images were stacked into three sets of 30 to try and detect the NEO, which was listed on the MPC ephemeris as mag +21.1V. It was faintly visible and positions of it were measured.

Another (brighter) object was also seen moving towards the edge of frame and putting the position into the MPC's Minor Planet Checker web page showed no known minor planets anywhere close. Further positions were obtained that night, extending the arc to 1h 45min and the positions were mailed off to the Minor Planet Center, with the temporary designation GS0307. It was measured to be about mag +19.5 R.

With the moon full on Oct 10th follow-up was needed urgently to get a second night in case it was a new discovery. The night of Oct 7/8 gave an opportunity, but high cloud and the bright moon stopped the object from being recorded. The next clear evening was the night of the full moon, Oct 10/11 and with the moon only 19 away the task seemed impossible. However, a series of 60 images was taken and a very faint object close to the position suggested by the ephemeris provided by the MPCs New Object Ephemeris Generator page could just be made out. Another (brighter) asteroid 2003 SX39 could also be made out close by. Positions for both were sent off to the MPC and the designation GS0307 = K03T03Q (= 2003 TQ3) came back, indicating that it was a new discovery.

Soon afterwards the MPC linked the object with single night positions submitted from LONEOS on 22 Sep 2003, LINEAR on 30 Sep 2003 and from Spacewatch II on 04 Oct 2003. As of 06 Nov 2003 futher observations have extended the arc to 18 Oct 2003 but no old observations have been linked from previous oppositions.

Using the Lowell Observatory's excellent Asteroid Observation Chart Builder it can be seen that there is opportunity in early 2005 to pick up 2003 TQ3 at its next opposition, when it should get to within about 0.4 mags of its 2003 opposition brightness. Unless more observations are made now it will have an uncertainty in position of about 3' at that time. An ephemeris can be generated here.


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