ASOtitle

"Stardust"

Clay Portrait Aug 2014 by BrianMuch like the multitudes of tiny, barely perceptible, stars sprinkled throughout the skies, the seemingly random thoughts and philosophies that sparkle from time to time in my head need some place to call home in the cosmos.

Thus, "Stardust" allows me to share thoughts and ideas from all of the ranges of human thought:  personal, natural, scientific and various excursions into otherwise random thoughts.  Some may have no beginning, no end.  But others I hope that you might benefit through knowing.

Essentially, "Stardust" is my personal forum to talk to YOU; hopefully you will be a dedicated listener.  You may not agree with me all the time - perhaps some of you never - but it might be fun for you to judge for yourself just how misguided I am in my wanderings.
I have had a rich life:  art, poetry, music, archeology, paleontology, geology, microbiology, astronomy, astrophysics, environment.  But richest of all are the humans that I have come to know and those with whom I have shared my life.
Please indulge me while I share just a bit longer.....
.....welcome to "Stardust."
Dr. Clay

-----------------------

Arkansas Sky Observatories' 100,000 Milestone

by P. Clay Sherrod

Arkansas Sky Observatories will reach it's sixth decade of serving science
through research, publications and teaching in March, 2021,
becoming one of the world's oldest active and contributing observatories worldwide
that is completely privately funded for its research and activity.


During the morning of June 8, 2017, Arkansas Sky Observatories' Petit Jean Mountain South facility - H45 - reached a milestone.  At 09:37 Universal Time, its precise measurement of the position and magnitude of the Near Earth Object asteroid 2017 HY50 resulted in the 100,000th astrometric measurement of comets and minor planets for the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center.
----------

The Legacy of Arkansas Sky Observatories

Founded by P. Clay Sherrod in 1971, the first principal focus of Arkansas Sky Observatories (ASO) was the study of Mars during its very close opposition in that year of the planet Mars.  The subtle surface and atmospheric changes noted throughout the close approach resulted  in the desire  to concentrate studies of celestial objects of change:  the planets Mars and Jupiter which demonstrate very pronounced changes over time, the motions and orbits of asteroids and comets, and cataclysmic stars - novae, supernovae and variable stars of irregular activities.  Located in the then-dark skies near the North Little Rock, Arkansas airport north of the city, volunteers at the two observatories were instrumental in the actual determination of the rotational period and shape of the large asteroid Eros (433).  The Observatories became well known worldwide for its contributions in the studies of planets, comets and variable stars.

Clay Edigewood1974s

Sherrod at ASO's Edgewood Observatory - North Little Rock Airport location, 1974
---------------
Late in the evening on night in 1974 after the public fury of the fizzled fate of Comet Kohoutek had been forgotten, the phone at ASO's Edgewood Observatory rang unexpectedly as I was sketching details of my views of the planet Jupiter in the telescope room next door.  We had no cell phones, no fax machines.....no computers.  Just an old black desk phone which served us well.

"Um, ...Clay Sherrod?" the distinct voice with British accent asked somewhat apologetically.  The poor quality of the call told me that it was long distance
"Yes, this is Clay Sherrod," I replied.
The voice continued somewhat excitedly without much explanation:
"Well....you see....this is Brian Marsden from the Harvard-Smithsonian Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams [CBAT], and we have something here....do you have clear skies tonight?"  he asked.  "I wonder if you might check and see if there is a comet about."

Where did he get my name, my phone number I wondered, but there was some inherent honor in hearing from the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory I thought.

Dr. Marsden gave the the celestial coordinates of a suspected faint comet that had been discovered and provided what he thought might be the apparent direction of motion and wanted me to confirm as to whether the discovery was real or spurious.  There was no comet anywhere near that position and my follow-up call was met with great appreciation and gratitude from this gentleman whom I had never met nor spoken with until that unexpected phone call.

Brian Marsden refractor  Marsden at the Harvard Refractor shortly before his death in 2010.

Thus began an active role in verification of reported celestial events - new comets, asteroids, novae and supernovae.  The small Arkansas Sky Observatory became one of about a dozen "stations" as he called them, worldwide - each selected he later explained so that any two of them had a good chance of having a clear sky when needed.  Over time, as ASO continued its studies of celestial transient phenomena, growing to  a complex of several observatories throughout the state of Arkansas, Dr. Marsden's career as a leader in the studies of comet and minor planet orbits and origins reached the pinnacle of achievement and he became a world leader in the subject.

Our relationship and contact continued weekly and sometimes daily until his untimely death on November 18, 2010.  Dr. Brian Marsden became my mentor and closely guided me as my career in science and astronomy grew.  He served as my academic advisor and guided me through my advanced education in astronomy, and always remained a close friend throughout a period of nearly 35 years.
----------------
Old School Astrometry - Mathematics and No Sleep

A  brief academic counseling session with Brian Marsden a couple of years later led to my understanding and hands-on use of astrometry - the precise measurement of any celestial object - a tool vital for determining the orbits of comets and asteroids as they orbit the sun.  In the 1970's there were very few known asteroids, or minor planets as astronomers prefer to call these celestial rocks.  Today, the number of known minor planets number in the hundreds of thousands, most of which are "main belt" or big chunks of rock that orbit within the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and maintain fairly stable orbits.  Among those is minor planet 117736 Sherrod, never a threat to anyone.

However, in addition there are tens of thousands classified as Near Earth Objects, or NEOs, that have the potential to intersect with the orbit of the Earth at some point in their trips around the sun, and thus there is a potential for impact of Earth by those objects.

Although computers had begun their development and rise to power in the 1970's, there was very little use for astronomical purposes outside of testing and development; the measurement of moving objects in the sky - comets as well as NEOs - was done the old school way:  by hand and the power of mathematics.  The first step in orbital determination is to accurately plot the object at a very precise moment - accurate TIME is of the essence with each observations.  Of course, unlike 150 years ago when rather inaccurate positions were measured at the telescope visually, we relied on photographs from which the comet or asteroid would be measured as it moved across a field of fixed stars.  At least three photographs were required in order to obtain a proper orbital determination, the three plots necessary for determining an arc, rather than a straight line of motion.

Unitron film camera The Unitron 3" x 5" sheet film camera used at ASO for astrometric measurements

Unlike the speed and ease of today's CCD and digital cameras which can utilize rapid computerized "plate solving" software to very precisely place the exact right ascension (east-west) and declination (norht-south)
position of an object in less than two seconds, we needed to use photographic glass plates (preferred) or large format sheet film that could be placed onto a light box and carefully measured.  Since ASO and its projects was a totally private and in the strictest sense non-profit, I was forced to rely on sheet film in a primitive Unitron 3 x 5 sheet film camera, loaded and unloaded in the dark,  one piece of film at a time after the long exposures were taken, usually a minimum of 45 minutes, carefully guided through one of the observatories' telescopes.

The three sheets of film would have to be processed, then completely dried before loading onto the light table for measurement.  Once properly prepared, the tiny image of the moving object (comet or asteroid) would be carefully compared against the positions of  THREE fixed stars as determined from the (now obsolete) Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Star Catalog, a voluminous 4-book set of numbers.  Triangulation from those stars to the moving object resulted in a rather precise position of the object which was then forwarded by MAIL (or relayed by phone) to Marsden at the CBAT.  The measurement of ONE OBJECT required a full night and much of the daylight morning following.

measuringLightBoxS  The old school method of measuring a comet or asteroid from film.

Today, using sensitive CCD astronomical cameras which can reach magnitude 20.4 in the ever-increasing lighted skies of Petit Jean Mountain, and computerized plate solving programs (Charon, from Project Pluto - Bill Gray) it is not uncommon for me to obtain over 200 measurements in ONE NIGHT.  All are recorded in sequence on the computers and with one push of a button a complete report of all measurements of all objects are sent to the IAU Minor Planet Center.
---------------

Milestone at the Push of a Computer Key

Rather than the typical 150 or 200 observations on the morning of June 8, 2017, I was only able to obtain 73 measurements due to clouds and the full moon in the sky.  When the moon is out, its light pretty much blocks all of the faint objects from view, but on this night were some potentially hazardous NEOs flying about and I was able to obtain that small number.  Among them was the asteroid 2017 HY50, rated as a potential impactor at this time, and one of the six measurements of this celestial rocks provided one of the most important milestones of ASO's illustrious career in astronomy:  it was the 100,000th measurement submitted to the Minor Planet Center by ASO in its 15-year stretch of digital measurements; the number did not include all of the laborious hand-derived measurements from the 1970's through 1990.  From 2002 to June 8, 2017, Arkansas Sky Observatories logged 100,033 measurements submitted.  Unfortunately this number represents ONLY those since digital recording began - 2002 - and not those laborious measured by hand prior to the advent of digital astronomy.

Although there are computerized robotic sky surveys operating today that take all-sky shots nightly and provide in some cases quite inaccurate measurements of masses of moving objects via computerized plate solving of large chunks of sky, ASO - with its modest equipment by comparison - still isolates on each and every object individually and carefully measures its motion exclusively.  These sky surveys surpass millions of observations, but the precision needed to really pin down the orbits of the comets and asteroids comes from individualized precise measurements from several dozen stations such as ASO.

In terms of numbers, the 100,000 mark by ASO may seem pale in comparison to the publicly supported "big guys", but it is the most measurements contributed to date by any privately funded (no grants or public funding of any sort) observatory worldwide and I am quite proud of the progress made by the seven observatories associated with the history of Arkansas Sky Observatories.

100k  From ASO: (http://arksky.org/astrometry-data)

The screen shot (above) shows the summary of he MPC report for June 8, 2017 on which the 100,000 milestone was reached by ASO.  This page (see URL above for direct access) is accessible by any person visiting the ASO website (www.arksky.org) and will reflect the nighty, monthly, yearly and total observations to date.  Another feature of the Astrometry tab on the ASO website is that any OBJECT (comet or asteroid) can also be accessed to examine ALL observations of that object since 2002; the MPC "packed format" designation must be used however to access those objects.  This page of astrometric observation is used by astronomers worldwide on a daily basis.

In addition to daily reports being sent to the Minor Planet Center, ASO serves to provide astrometric observations for updates and special projects by NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Arecibo  Radio Telescope, Goldstone, the Oriental Astronomical Association, Lockheed-Martin, and many other public and private enterprises.
---------------------
Moving Past 100,000

The future of Arkansas Sky Observatories will continue to include the studies of small bodies of the solar system in addition to other scientific research in astronomy as well as paleontology, archeology, geology and environmental sciences.  That being said, sadly I admit that there will likely not be a 200,000 milestone if you simply run the numbers against the age of the ASO founder and operator to the amount of time required for such studies.  Perhaps out there is some young, bright protege who may be willing to learn the focus, philosophy and challenges that have always been the hallmark of the Arkansas Sky vision.

One thing I am certain of:  I can say without hesitation that I am very proud of the accomplishments of Arkansas Sky throughout the past 50 years, through its teaching, publications (  http://arksky.org/publications ) and outreach throughout the scientific and educational communities.  Few people can truly say that they have lived the dream that they imagined as a child.  The success of Arkansas Sky Observatories and its programs has fulfilled all of my expectations of life.

PCS, 2017
-------------------
---------
March 21, 2017

The Hale-Bopp Comet and Heaven's Gate


By
P. Clay Sherrod

Many times the passage of time - and our abilities to remember the years that pass - is marked permanently in our memories by dramatic events, typically catstrophic or with such notable 'force' as to register forever in the deep banks of our memories.  Such an event was the passage of the Comet 1995 O1 Hale-Bopp in the spring of 1997, a time when I was observing it nightly from the red bluffs on the western end of Petit Jean Mountain.  This comet reached a bright naked eye brightness in the evening skies and was seen by millions with its beautiful curving tail night after night.  But it was not this glorious site that strikes the memories from March 26, 1997

On March 26, 2017, it will be 20 years since we heard the breaking news about the mass suicides of the separatist cult Heaven's Gate in California.  Led by Marshall Applewhite, a total of at least 39 people - men women and their children either voluntarily drank poisonous punch to end their lives, or in some cases were perhaps force-fed to drink the deadly concoction.  The cult had been established by Appelwhite after he had experienced a neaer-death encounter in 1971; they were told of a prophecy that said that aliens would arrive on Earth to take away disciples who believed in their coming for an exodus into the kingdom of God.

A tip to authorities on March 26, 1997, led law enforcement to the huge compound atop a ridge at Rancho Santa Fe in the hills just outside of the suburbs of San Diego California.  When they arrived, the police found nothing but dead bodies....no sign of life, and no sigh of Applegate himself, nor his highest in command.  There has not been any knowledge of their survival nor whereabouts since them.

HaleBopp 1995O1 May3 97 SM

Photograph of Comet Hale-Bopp, 1995 O1 taken by P. Clay Sherrod from the west overlook at Red Bluff, Petit Jean Mountain, Arkansas
May 3, 1997 - Pentax  SLT w/50mm lens 30-second exposure; comet was magnitude -0.1 in the constellation of Taurus and at a distance of about 175 million miles from Earth.
--------------------

Applewhite preached the prophecy that the Aliens would arrive cloaked or disguised cleverly out of the Heavens to select those to return with to the Kingdom.  When astronomers in early 1997 learned of a small fragment that had been located photographically following this comet - nothing more than a fragment which had broken away from the parent object - Marshall Applewhite was convinced that this was the cloaked spaceship that had come to apprehend his people.  Convincing that the only way to be among those selected, he convinced the group that they would drink the poisonous punch, then go to sleep and never awake.

We are only hoping that the disappearance of Applewhite and his strongmen from the Heaven's Gate compound was due to alien abduction.

Do you remember May 1997?

---------------------

-----
The Constellations - Sky Tours for Computerized telescopes

A Two-Volume Sky Guide

Two new astronomy books by P. Clay Sherrod, director of Petit Jean Mountain's Arkansas Sky Observatories (ASO), have just been completed and released.

This two-volume set of extensive guides is entitled
The Constellations:  Sky Tours for Computerized Telescopes
and contains over one thousand pages of information about most of the major constellations in our night skies.

Sherrod started this very detail-oriented project in 2001 and it is just now coming into fruition.  It contains not only writings about the history, mythology, and science of the major constellations, but also hundreds of original photographs from the Observatories as well as original artwork and graphics by Sherrod.

The books are intended to guide casual as well as advanced star gazers through the night sky and provide rich detail about the physics of objects throughout the constellations; the ancient lore and legend behind constellation names, Greek mythology, star names and the development of astronomy through history is prevalent through each constellation presented.  All enthusiasts - casual novice to advanced amateur - will benefit and enjoy the extensive references in this series.

In 38 chapters throughout the two book set, Sherrod provides sky charts of the constellations and explanations about the interesting objects - from bright stars to black holes and X-ray bursters - in each chapter.
Details on these two books, in addition to others recently published can be found at:  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Stardoc44

A noted lecturer, writer and researcher in science and astronomy, this is Sherrod's 19th book, six of which were completed and published in 2016; it is his first book in astronomy since 2005.  Copies of the books can be obtained through Barnes and Noble and Amazon, but are also available direct from Arkansas Sky Observatories.  Write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information about both the new books and the operations of ASO.

Book cover vol1 Cover vol2

*    *    *
-------
December 2016

Christmas:  A Quiet Peace in a Chaotic World

by
P. Clay Sherrod

Christmas Card ss 
IIlustration by P. Clay Sherrod, 1991


--------------------------

It is almost Christmas here on planet Earth, a time when we celebrate the most unusual of happenings and perhaps a time unique in all of the world of biology so far as we know.  We reflect on an instance, well over two thousand years passed, on which we rely from short statements in two books of a magnificent record of history that we have come to know as our Bible of the Christian world.  In that book is preserved words that form mental images of times of unrest, persecution, and unfathomable hardships of our ancestors as they struggled simply to survive from poverty, hunger and tyranny.   In many ways, we might interject here that the ancient world was

----------------

Memories of Comet Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (1974-f)

with thoughts of its splendid 2016-2017 return as Comet 45P

by P. Clay Sherrod
January 7, 2017
----------------------------
As Comet Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (45P) streaks across our nighttime skies this winter, displaying a beautiful green coma and long linear tail several degrees to the northeast, I was inspired to go into the Arkansas Sky Observatories' Archives of bound research documents and find my records of observing this comet in 1974 and 1975.  Barely visible visually in our skies prior to the remarkable Comet West (1975n) in 1975, comet 45P.

45p Dec22s

Comet 45P photographed and provided by comet photographer Michael Jager of Austria on December 22, 2016.
--------------------
Comet Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova was discovered long before I first observed it in 1974, and had been missed or very unfavorably placed for observation since its original discovery in 1948 by three comet hunters, M.Honda, A. Mrkos, and L. Pajdusakova, each spotting the comet independently, thus this interloper sporting the names of all three who simultaneously found this comet at magnitude 9 as a very faint "smudge" of light, quite diffuse and without a nucleus or tail.  The comet in that year rapidly faded to magnitude 13 and was not seen again until 1954 when it reached magnitude 8.4 only for a very short period of time.

With its orbital period of only 5.3 years, we would think that this comet would be easily visible at each pass, but this is certainly not the case; it was not visible in 1959 because of the geometry of the Earth-Sun-Comet orientation, but it was observed very sparingly in subsequent passages.  It was not until the winter of 1974-75 that the comet would become favorable for observations in evening skies; by that time there were many times more observers - both amateur and professional - who were taking a keen interest in the nature of comets.

In 1974-75, we had just seen the passage of "The Comet of the Century," Comet Kohoutek 1973-f, regretfully deemed to be the brightest comet perhaps ever seen in modern times.  The world awaited this comet with eager anticipation and thousands of small telescopes were sold to an unsuspecting public hoping to catch this media-frenzied celestial visitor.  When the comet was first discovered by Czech astronomer Lubos Kohoutek, it was so far away in our solar system, yet so intrinsically bright, that Dr. Brian Marsden of the Havard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory properly surmised that - by the time the comet would come into the Earth' vicinity - it would be incredibly bright and thus the comet mania grew.

But soon we realized that Comet Kohoutek was going to be the fizzle of the century and many of both the general public AND the astronomical community was discouraged from the realm of comet exploration.

But the early 1970's brought an incredible influx of bright and exciting comets, most of them ignored, under-observed or missed entirely by the apathy of the Kohoutek-burned human race.  I must admit, that comet 1974-f was NOT among those exciting comets.  But at the time I was hooked on comet observing and Dr. Marsden had become my mentor to continue to monitor all that I could.  A phone call one evening at the observatory from Marsden was all that I needed to immediately turn our modest telescopes in search of Comet Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova.  Our first attempts to locate the comet - all done visually at that time - were unsuccessful;  the now-veteran comet observer John Bortle was the first to spot it in his 12-inch Newtonian on November 15 at a faint magnitude less than 12.5; his next effort on December 4 saw the comet had brightened to a still-dim magnitude 10.4.

By December 10, 1974, using the wide field Comet Searching six-inch f/5 wide field refractor, the comet was spotted at Arkansas Sky Observatories by myself and volunteers Jim Henry and John Evans.  It was nothing more in the low power field as a smudge of diffuse glow, but we had picked up the comet nonetheless and reported it as we did all comets to the SAO/International Astronomical Union's Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) as a very faint extended diffuse object only three arc-minutes across and magnitude 10.8 visually.

1974 CBATs

The IAU/CBAT Telegram that was distributed (mailed) Dec. 13, 1974
-------------
Although photography was available to us at the Edgehill facility (to later be designation Harvard MPC ObsCode H43), the practice at the time was to record physical parameters and morphology visually.  Following is my report to Dr. Marsden, Mr. Dennis Milan of both Sky and Telescope magazine and the Comet Recorder for the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, and to Daniel Green (now the director of the CBAT) who edited The Comet out of North Carolina.

"I searched on November 28, December 2,3,4,5,8,9 and tonight (Dec. 9) photographed the exact area where the comet should be reaching stellar magnitude 13 with the 6-inch at prime focus....stars of 12th and 13th magnitude were quite obvious on 10 to 15 minute exposures.

"Tonight the comet was finally spotted with some difficulty....transparency was excellent (6th mag. stars visible to the naked eye) and seeing good.  At 23.5x in the 6" the comet was at first not visible; however with 60x it was quite obvious using averted vision.  No tail was visible, nor did it show any nuclear condensation
[nucleus].  It appeared as a borderless diffuse glow approximately 3 arc minutes diameter.....the comet being only about 12 degrees above the trees in the distance....enclosed is a quick drawing....."

45P 1974

Not a work of art, but a quick sketch done 43 years ago at the telescope
---------------------------
And now - 43 years later as much has changed in the world of astronomy and otherwise - comet 1974-f is once again in my evening skies, but now as Comet 45P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova.
Finally - after 70 years of always being noted as a "diffuse glow" with no central condensation, the remarkable Comet 45P as shown in photographer Michael Jager's outstanding photo at top has been an object well worth monitoring and watching for these old eyes after five decades.

Today, with modern CCD cameras, digital computerized processing of images, and precision telescopes only dreamed of in 1974, we are able to capture "faint diffuse objects" with the clarity and splendor that they truly possess.  Much has changed, not only in the equipment that we use, but also in our understanding of these comets, visitors from the depths of our solar system of which we are still hanging onto uncertainties and some mysteries of their nature and origins.

And - to me - this faint diffuse object now serves as a spark of memory preserved in the old yellowing archives of research from Arkansas Sky Observatories' rich 50-year history.

-----------------------------------

Sixth Book for 2016 Published by Sherrod

ClayBooks2 7691s
Photo courtesy Lenard Cockman

P. Clay Sherrod
of Arkansas Sky Observatories, Petit Jean Mountain has completed his sixth book for 2016.

NOTE that all can be reviewed and purchased  at:  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Stardoc44

- You-Twit-Face:  Your Complete Guide to Nomophobia.  Our addictions to smart phones and social media.
     A humorous fact-filled summary of the frightening trend to our obsession with social media

-  "Footprints of Fallen Giants: Pathways to Extinction", a scientific look at the extinction of the dinosaurs and all creatures,

- "The Gunbarrel Petroglyph and the Quest of the Double-Peaked Mountain", which examines the ancient yearly visitation of native Americans and their possible ties to the migration of the Cherokee,

- "Rocks of Prehistory:  The Gumlog Creek Rockshelter" - an archeological study of prehistoric people in Arkansas,

- "The Cahokia Vortex" - a fictional thriller that deals with ancient rituals that resurface in today's world

- "Life Lessons of the Naked Boy:  A treasury of simply philosophies for past, present and future,"  a biographical guide to parenting in the modern  age

SEE:
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Stardoc44

The Naked Boy - is an humorous autobiographical memoir and guide of Sherrod's childhood and the advantages of growing up a 'Baby Boomer' in a world still available for childhood exploration, creativity and discovery and how the modern age has changed all that opportunity for the youth of today.

All books are available in paperback; Cahokia and Naked Boy have both paper and hardbound editions.
These books are sold through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com  and
for a listing of all publications by Sherrod, go to:  http://arksky.org/publications


cover2
--------------------------
Sherrod, P. Clay.
The Naked Boy
A treasury of simple philosophies for the past, present and future
A Biographical Parenting Guide by P. Clay Sherrod
Arkansas Sky Observatory Publications 2016
ISBN #: 978-1-365-42269-0 - LuLu Publications
ORDER: 
(available in hardcover and softcover editions)

---------

----------
Arkansas Sky Observatories Sets Record for 2016


By
P. Clay Sherrod

apophis
The dangerous Earth-crossing asteroid/NEO Apophis which is predicted
to have a very close encounter with the Earth in April, 2029
------------------

Arkansas Sky Observatories (ASO), atop Petit Jean Mountain, has reached a milestone in observations by all private observatories world-wide. The primary studies at the observatories – all in cooperation with NASA, Harvard/Smithsonian Observatories and the Tokyo Observatory – has always been Near Earth Objects (NEOs), asteroids and comets which intercept the Earth’s orbit at some time in the future and pose hazards of destruction on Earth.

The study of NEOs has come to the forefront for NASA and various branches of many governments and nearly all facilities devoted to the refinement of the orbits of these bodies – some 45,000 of them – are funded through grants and foundations.

Not so with ASO, which is one of the nation’s oldest privately funded research observatories, operated and owned by P. Clay Sherrod who established the protocol for the research in 1970 when the observatory was only one of four “confirmation stations” of the Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams at Smithsonian-Harvard.

On December 31, 2016, Sherrod topped 12,111 measurements (for 2016 only) of the motions of asteroids and comets submitted and accepted as accurate to the Harvard Minor Planet Center and Tokyo Observatory. This is the largest submission ever for a private, non-funded observatory in a single year.

Since computer digitization in 2001, ASO has amassed nearly 94,000 measurements, now being able to log over 100 objects nightly through total robotic operation of three observatories in Arkansas. The goal is to surpass 100,000 orbital measurements by year-end 2017.

* * * * *

ASO Reaching a Milestone


August, 2016 was a benchmark for Arkansas Sky Observatories atop Petit Jean Mountain.

Its three observatory facilities - Harvard Minor Planet Center H41, H43 and H45 - reached their 90,000th reported astrometric (orbital position) and photometric (brightness measurement) observations to the Minor Planet Center, Tokyo Observatory, and NASA/JPL, since digital records began for ASO in 2001.  Combined with traditional earlier reporting (by Special Delivery Mail), ASO has well surpassed a total of 100,000 contributed observations since its inception in 1971.  In that year, we stood as one of only a handful of "confirmation stations" for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatories (SAO) and Harvard, under the direction of he late Dr. Brian Marsden who nightly would phone the observatory to ask confirmation of newly discovered comets, asteroids or novae.

Records submitted were those of the all-important asteroids - Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and possible comets with Earth-crossing potential. 

Go To Top