Near Earth Object 2005 WJ56,
07 January 2008
While looking at the SpaceWeather.com web site on the night of 07 January 2008, I noticed a prediction of a close approach of an NEO on 10 January 2008. I downloaded the orbital elements from the Minor Planets Centre and loaded them into my "Guide" planetarium software. This showed that at the time the asteroid, 2005WJ56, was very close to Beta Aurigae and thus very easy to find. So I went out to take some images. By the time I had fired up the camera the asteroid was right on top of Beta Aurigae and I had to wait about 15 minutes for it to emerge from the glare. However I soon picked it up and then took a sequence of 54 thirty-second exposures from 23:03 to 23:33 UT. The image below, obtained by stacking all the images, shows the motion of the asteroid in just 30 minutes as a trail. Each time a new image appeared on the computer screen the asteroid had moved noticeably and an animation of the images shows its rapid motion against the background stars.