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U.S. Naval Observatory Ephemerides of the Largest Asteroids

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USNO/AE98 contains ephemerides for fifteen of the largest asteroids that The Astronomical Almanac has used since its 2000 edition. These ephemerides are based on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) planetary ephemeris DE405 and, thus, aligned to the International Celestial Reference System (ICRS). The data cover the period from 1799 November 16 (JD 2378450.5) through 2100 February 1 (JD 2488100.5). The internal uncertainty in the mean longitude at epoch, 1997 December 18, ranges from 0.05 arcseconds for 7 Iris through 0.22 arcseconds for 65 Cybele, and the uncertainty in the mean motion varies from 0.02 arcseconds per century for 4 Vesta to 0.14 arcseconds per century for 511 Davida.

The Astronomical Almanac has published ephemerides for 1 Ceres, 2 Pallas, 3 Juno, and 4 Vesta since its 1953 edition. Historically, these four asteroids have been observed more than any of the others. Ceres, Pallas, and Vesta deserve such attention because as they are the three most massive asteroids, the source of significant perturbations of the planets, the largest in linear size, and among the brightest main belt asteroids. Studying asteroids may provide clues to the origin and primordial composition of the solar system, data for modeling the chaotic dynamics of small solar system bodies, and assessments of potential collisions. Therefore, USNO/AE98 includes more than the traditional four asteroids.

The following criteria were used to select main belt asteroids for USNO/AE98:

The massive asteroids included may be studied for their perturbing effects on the planets while those with detailed observing histories may be used to evaluate the accuracy limits of asteroid ephemerides. The fifteen asteroids that met at least one of these criteria are

The refereed paper by Hilton (1999, Astron. J. 117, 1077) describes the USNO/AE98 asteroid ephemerides in detail. The associated USNO/AA Tech Note 1998-12 includes residual plots for all fifteen asteroids and a comparison between these ephemerides and those used in The Astronomical Almanac through 1999.

Software to compact, read, and interpolate the USNO/AE98 asteroid ephemerides is also available. It is written in C and designed to work with the C edition of the Naval Observatory Vector Astrometry Software (NOVAS). The programs could be used with tabular ephemerides of other asteroids as well. The associated README file provides the details of this system.

Obtaining a Copy:

USNO/AE98 along with software to read the asteroid ephemerides, test data files, and a copy of USNO/AA Tech Note 1998-12 is available on CD-ROM from the U.S. Naval Observatory for $2. To order this, or any USNO special publications, use the order form provided: print it out, fill it in, and mail it to the Naval Observatory with your payment. We cannot accept telephone, fax, or e-mail orders. Only checks or money orders (in U.S. currency, drawn on a U.S. bank) can be accepted for payment. Payment must be received before orders are filled.

Errata 44K

for program files on the CD-ROM (PDF)
readtest.c 3K

corrected (ASCII)
generate.c 16K

corrected (ASCII)
readeph.c 17K

corrected (ASCII)

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