Critical Lists of Asteroids

We present two so-called critical lists of numbered asteroids (in several categories) and unnumbered asteroids whose orbits can be usefully improved by additional astrometric observation. The numbered asteroids have, for various reasons, been inadequately observed, and the unnumbered asteroids could perhaps be numbered after a modest astrometric effort. The first critical list contains all asteroids in need of observation, without regard to location in the sky and current observability. The second critical list is a subset of the first, and contains asteroids that come to opposition during the current lunation (full Moon to full Moon).

Although our lists superficially resemble the one put out monthly by the Minor Planet Center, they are based on different precepts, and are updated on a quasi-daily basis. The MPC list consists primarily of asteroids that have been observed at a small number of apparitions or that have not been adequately observed for 10 yr or more, whereas our lists derive entirely from parameters related to ephemeris uncertainties.

We consider the listed numbered asteroids to have been inadequately observed. Our criteria for numbering are:

  1. A numbered asteroid's computed ephemeris uncertainty must not exceed 2 arcsec in the coming 10 yr.
  2. A numbered asteroid's orbit must be robust. That is, it must not degrade significantly when temporally isolated observations (one-night apparitions) are omitted.

Our critical lists are based on two ephemeris uncertainty parameters:

  1. |CEU|, the |current ephemeris uncertainty|.
  2. OQP, the orbital quality parameter, defined by Muinonen and Bowell (1993, Icarus 104, 255-279) as -log10leak , where leak is one of several orbital metrics developed by them. A rule of thumb is that OQP > 5.47 for an asteroid to satisfy our numberability criteria. If OQP < 5.25, an asteroid is certainly not numberable. Between these two values, a numbered asteroid's orbit is considered to be of marginal quality.

We have subdivided the critical lists into six categories:

  1. Lost numbered asteroid. Only 719 Albert is currently lost. It will probably be recovered serendipitously.
  2. Numbered asteroids having |CEU| > 2.0 arcsec during the current lunation (full Moon to full Moon).
  3. Numbered asteroids for which OQP fails (OQP < 5.25) or fails when a one-night apparition is omitted.
  4. Numbered asteroids for which OQP is marginal (5.25 < OQP < 5.47) or is marginal when a one-night apparition is omitted.
  5. Numbered asteroids for which the last observation included in the orbit solution was made more than 10 yr ago.
  6. Unnumbered asteroids that could perhaps be numbered after one or two additional accurate observations. The lists contain asteroids that, according to the aforementioned numberability criteria, could at present be numbered. They are not numbered because of differences in the criteria used by the MPC and us. However, they are certainly close to being numbered by the MPC, so additional observations, particularly a month or more after the last observation, might allow them to be.

Asteroids contained in the lists may be annotated in three ways:

  1. * An asterisk following a number or designation signifies that the asteroid is also contained in category 5 (above).
  2. () Parentheses around a number or designation indicate that an asteroid has already been observed on at least two nights during the current apparition. Although requiring additional observation, it need not be observed during the current lunation.
  3. + A plus sign (in the second critical list only) indicates that an asteroid's CEU will reach a 10-yr peak during the current lunation. Such an asteroid is a prime target for astrometric observation.

We are posting the critical lists in the test phase, before they have been completely documented and checked, in particular so that users can appreciate that many numbered asteroids are in need of further observation and that many unnumbered asteroids are close to being numbered. Note that, because we are at present only receiving observations from the Minor Planet Center on a monthly basis, we cannot ensure that our critical lists are completely correct and up-to-date.

Our critical lists comprise a phase in the development of HOP: a hierarchical observing protocol designed to optimize the astrometric observation of all asteroids. HOP is being developed by us in collaboration with the MPC.

Last updated: 6 January 1999

Contact: Bruce Koehn
Web curators: Ted Bowell and Bruce Koehn

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