Zero Point observations - Dave Latham's recipe

Created 03/11/11 by EF

We'd like to begin observing Minor Planets regularly. Here is how Stefanik does it but if you have an easier way let us know.

One can generate a minor planet ephemeris at the IAU Minor Planet Center web site

You can also use the jpl/nasa HORIZONS web site but it is not as convenient.

The Observatory Code for Whipple is 696.

Dates are UT. You don't need to enter a start date since it will use the current date as the default. RS generally sets the "Number of dates to output" as 12 and "Ephemeris interval" as 2 hours. The ephemeris will return RA, dec and magnitude (among other things)at a number of UT times. You can, of course, input any numbers you like.
You can then copy and paste the RA & dec into "new coords" in the telescope control window and slew to the minor planet. You also will need to input the minor planet ID with "object xxxx." (It is easy to forget to do this!). The ID convention we used in the past is "ASTxx" where xx is the minor planet number.

(TED: is there some way to automatically do this transfer of coordinates and ID's to the telescope control window? Joe Zajac is looking the code he wrote for Oak Ridge that uses the currernt orbital elements for the 50 brightest minor planets and returns the coordinates for the current UT. If he can find it we'll get it to you.)

Remember that the sky map that pops up will not have the minor planet image but if you enable the cross-hair you can easily locate the minor planet in the guider and on the sky.

The following minor planets have been extensively observed at Oak Ridge for many years. You can almost always find an object from this list to observe easily (position and magnitude) at any time during the night. Paste the entire list into the object box on the web site to get all the predictions.

(1) ceres 
(2) pallas 
(3) juno 
(4) vesta 
(6) hebe 
(7) iris 
(9) metis 
(14) irene 
(15) eunomia 
(16) psyche 
(18) melpomene 
(23) thalia 
(29) amphitrite 
(44) nysa 
(27) euterpe 

This set of minor planets (with more than 1200 observations) always gave a mean (observed - computed) velocity that was between -100 and -200 m/sec where the computed velocities were provided by Brain Marsden of the Minor Planet Center.
Please do not use (8) Flora, (10) Hygiea or (20) Massalia. They consistently gavevelocities such that their mean (O-C) were 100-200 m/sec positive. Brain never figured out why.