DDA 36th Meeting, 10-14 April 2005
Session 13 The Quest for Precision
Oral, Wednesday, April 13, 2005, 3:05-5:45pm

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[13.05] Eclipse Prediction and Orbit Improvement for Near Earth Asteroids

P. Tricarico, N.C. Hearn, G. Lake, G. Worthey (WSU)

Asteroids can be eclipsed by a planet, a moon, or by another asteroid. We describe a statistical method to predict an eclipse for an asteroid, based on the analysis of the orbital elements covariance matrix. By propagating a set of Virtual Asteroids to an epoch correspondent to a close approach with another Solar System body, it is possible to estimate the probability that the asteroid will cross the body's penumbra or umbra cone.

Since different Virtual Asteroids can enter and leave the penumbra cone at different times, and their apparent magnitudes can differ, the direct observation of an eclipse can provide data useful to improve the asteroid orbit.

As an application of this method, we have checked for eclipses by the Moon or the Earth for all the known Near Earth Asteroids in the 1990-2050 period, detecting several eclipses. In particular, the asteroid 2004~MN4 has a probability of about 0.47 to enter the Moon's penumbra cone and a probability of about 0.08 to enter the umbra cone on April 14, 2029 less than one day after a very close approach with the Earth.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #2
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.