The Minor Planet Project is a private amateur astronomy research program. The HARLINGTEN RESEARCH OBSERVATORY is located at Pluto Park Rancho Hidalgo near Animas, New Mexico. The observatory houses a remote controlled robotic telescope which is dedicated to asteroid astrometry (the measurement of the positions and motions of celestial bodies) and photometry (the measurement of the reflected light's brightness).

Weather permitting astrometric measurements are taken of newly discovered Near Earth Asteroids. The measurements are collected and sent to the Minor Planet Center, the official organization in charge of collecting observational data for minor planets (asteroids) and comets. The team has submitted over 35,000 measurements since 2001.

Our Mission

The mission of the Minor Planet Project is to gather astrometric observations of asteroids and submit those measurements to the Minor Planet Center. Our goals are to obtain follow up observations on one-opposition unnumbered asteroids with high uncertainties, Potential Mission Destinations and newly found Near Earth Asteroids so their orbits can be better defined.

Follow-up Astrometry

Follow-up astrometry and recoveries are made with the RCOS 16"(0.4-m) telescope at f/6.7 at the HARLINGTEN RESEARCH OBSERVATORY at Rancho Hildalgo (MPC G48). The APOGEE ALTA U9 CCD has 9x9 micron pixels and a 23.6 x 35.4 field with our set up. It is typically used with 1x1 binning giving us 0.69 arc-seconds per pixel for this combination. The telescope can be pointed with an accuracy of about 5 arc-seconds mounted on the Paramount ME.  All images are unguided of  less than 180 second exposure durations.  Near Earth Asteroids are imaged at tracking rates up to 56 arc-seconds/minute.

Data Reduction

All data are reduced on a PC. Flat-fielding, bias and dark field subtraction are done using MaxIm DL. The astrometry is done with Astrometrica or PinPoint software and checked with Find Orb.  WCS coordinates are added to the FITS files using the UCAC4  and USNO B1.0 catalogs.  Remote control operation over the internet is possible using ACP, TheSky6, FocusMax and MaxIm DL.