Looking for NEOs on the UK Schmidt Archive: a Preliminary Report

One of the most extensive and well maintained photographic archives in the world, is the UK Schmidt archive. Although some of its data is available through the web as part of the Digitized Sky Survey, the great bulk of this resource is kept at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh (ROE). About 17,000 plates are there at any time.

The UKST archive has always represented a great potential for NEO precovery work. Considering the amount of success of other similar programs from the early 90's, we realized that a visit to ROE was worthwhile at this stage of the NEO discovery process. All single-opposition and a few multiple-opposition NEOs were checked against the UKST catalog file. Each target output was divided into a few different categories depending on the likelihood of locating the object.

A collaboration was established with ROE staff for the use of their plate library, and we arranged a visit from September 19 to to October 3, 2000. The work at ROE plate library, (object searching and astrometry) was done by Andrea Boattini. All the computational work, "last-minute" observing predictions and orbital linkages of possible candidates, was performed by Giuseppe Forti from Arcetri Observatory. Technical assistance at ROE plate library was provided by Mike Read and occasionally by Sue Tritton. We plan to arrange another visit in the near future, as soon as there is enough material and/or we have valuable scientific expectations to justify another trip to this nice facility.

Here is a brief summary of the results:

* NEOs found and measured:   24

One-opposition:   22

1999 RM28 (*), 1998 YB8, 1999 JU3, 2000 JS66, 1998 WM, 1999 KX4, 1999 RR28, 2000 QP,

1998 OR2, 2000 EZ148, 1998 UT18, 1998 BX7, 1999 GJ2, 1992 BL2, 1999 YB, 2000 NF11,

2000 SY2, 1999 JV3, 1999 LQ28, 1999 RP36, 2000 JT66, 2000 PG5

(*) located and measured by R. H. McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory.

Multi-opposition:   3

1997 WS22, 1996 AS1, 2000 SY2   (addit. image)

* NEOs found but not measured (either plate defects or too faint for astrometry):   6

1997 XF11, 1998 UL1, 1999 AR7, 1999 CT3, 1999 DB7, 2000 JQ66

* NEAs not found (either too faint, not recognized, or out of plate):   61

1977 VA, 1978 CA, 1983 LB, 1987 SF3, 1988 RO1, 1988 SM, 1991 FB, 1993 HC, 1995 QN3,

1996 PC1, 1997 AQ18, 1998 CS1, 1998 HM3, 1998 HJ41, 1998 ME3, 1998 QE2, 1998 SV4,

1998 SF35, 1998 SR49, 1998 VR, 1998 YM4, 1999 CZ136, 1999 FB, 1999 GT6, 1999 HV1,

1999 KK1, 1999 LN28, 1999 MN, 1999 SK10, 1999 TB10, 1999 VQ6, 1999 WA2, 1999 YA,

1999 YN4, 2000 BH19, 2000 CK33, 2000 CN33, 2000 CE59, 2000 CF59, 2000 CH59, 2000 CO101,

2000 EV70, 2000 EE104, 2000 EA107, 2000 FL10, 2000 FN10, 2000 FO10, 2000 GX127, 2000 GK137,

2000 HW23, 2000 JH5, 2000 JO78, 2000 OJ8, 2000 OB22, 2000 PJ5, 2000 QT7, 2000 QU7,

2000 QW69, 2000 RD34, 2000 RJ34, 2000 RH60

The above lists involved about 150 plates. Among the best finds, we can mention the lost Amor 1992 BL2 and the Aten 2000 SY2, which was located about three hours after the discovery announcement by the MPC. We also discovered one Hungaria (1977 SU3); it happened to be on four plates leading to a 55-days arc orbit.

Another set of 150 plates have been used to search for a few lost objects, such as:

1937 UB, 1950 DA, 1991 NT3, 1991 TB2, 1998 FH74, 2000 KB

There was not enough time to make a full investigation of these targets, but in the case of 1991 NT3 the coverage of the confidence region was almost complete. We plan to use this information for a direct recovery at the telescope.

Note: A few plates we were interested in, were not at the ROE plate library. On one of these, 1999 RM28, was located measured by Robert McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory. Another plate where supposedly 1999 LP28 was recorded, is currently in Japan.


We want to thank all the institutions that made this collaboration possible: the Royal Observatory at Edinburgh, the Rome Observatory and the Arcetri Observatory.

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October 18, 2000