M27
MPC OSERVATORY 643
Astronomical Research
Dedicated to expanding human knowledge
Saturn
RESEARCH
PURPOSE:  MPC643 was created April, 1999 with the mission to advance minor planet research.   Minor White, as the senior astronomer, created custom software and search techniques which made our asteroid discoveries possible in spite of frustrating equipment.  His knowledge took our techniques to new technical levels.

DIRECT DISCOVERIES:  We used a 0.57-m (22.5-inch) Cassegrain at the Kuhn Observatory in Anza, CA, USA for the discovery of minor planets.  Our very first evening turned up 6 objects which we could not immediately identify, and 4 of these were eventually numbered to our credit.

For three summers we tried, like other amateurs, to keep a step ahead of the big automated surveys, while always looking for smaller and dimmer objects.  We had to make critical recoveries within crowded Milky Way fields, recover 1-nighters after 20 days of Moon and weather interference, and establish orbits of faint objects during short apparitions.

COLLABORATIVE DISCOVERIES:  Today's digital cameras turn out more data than astronomers can process. In order to foster collaborative research, several observatories now provide on-line data to assist other observatories in minor planet research. This has proven especially useful in pre-covery observations to help quickly establish orbits - as illustrated in the case of Hermes.

We first used SkyMorph for NEAT images to make pre-coveries of our discoveries.  Then, in tracking a few that "got away", we successfully established the orbit of 2001 HO67 based upon only 15 minutes worth of images that we had taken 14 months prior!  In the process, we found that many dimmer objects in the NEAT images were not detected by their automated software.  We downloaded various series of images and ran them through processing filters to enhance faint objects.  Ultimately we discovered 3 dozen objects, some nearly 21.0 mV, including a Jovian Hilda, and several MBO's less than 2 km in size!

TOOLS:  We have developed and proven many new mathematical methods for analyzing CCD images for astronomical research.  We have also devised methods of using telescopes and digital cameras, and in planning productive and successful observing sessions.