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E. Bowell, B. W. Koehn (Lowell Observatory), J. Virtanen, K. Muinonen, M. Gravnik (University of Helsinki Observatory, Finland), G. Tancredi (Dept. Astronomia-Fac. Ciencias, Montevideo, Uruguay)
Statistical ranging is a unique and practical method of making ephemeris predictions for transneptunian objects (TNOs) having short observational arcs. Whereas TNO orbital element probability densities are complicated, the projected distributions of the sky-plane uncertainties are usually unambiguous. However, following the last observation, ephemeris uncertainty grows almost linearly with time, making follow-up in subsequent apparitions tedious, if not impossible. Using statistical ranging, one has the option of applying filters by imposing a priori information on the orbital element distributions, which results in reduced ephemeris uncertainty and focuses searches into the most likely regions on the sky. We illustrate the successful use of our technique. We are developing both an optimized observing strategy for maximum improvement of orbital accuracy using a minimum number of observations, and a web-based application (go to http://asteroid.lowell.edu/cgi-bin/koehn/tnofind).
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34, #3< br> © 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.