Minor Planet Center
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The Minor Planet Center (MPC) is the official organization in charge of collecting observational data for minor planets (asteroids) and comets, calculating their orbits and publishing this information via the Minor Planet Circulars. Under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union, it operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, which is part of the Center for Astrophysics along with the Harvard College Observatory.
It runs a number of free online services for observers to assist them in observing minor planets and comets. The complete catalogue of minor planet orbits (sometimes referred to as the "Minor Planet Catalogue") may also be freely downloaded. In addition to astrometric data, the MPC also collects light curve photometry of minor planets. A key function of the MPC is helping observers coordinate follow up observations of possible Near Earth Objects (NEOs) via the NEO Confirmation Page and NEOCP Blog. The MPC is also responsible for identifying, and alerting to, new NEOs with a risk of impacting Earth in the few weeks following their discovery.
The Minor Planet Center was set up at the University of Cincinnati in 1947, under the direction of Paul Herget:64–65:63. Upon Herget's retirement on June 30, 1978:67, the MPC was moved to the SAO, under the direction of Brian G. Marsden:67. Since 2006, the director of the MPC is Timothy B. Spahr, who oversees a staff of five.
- Donald E. Ostertbrock and P. Kenneth Seidelmann (1987). Paul Herget 1908 - 1981. A Biographical Memoir. National Academy of Sciences.
- Brian G. Marsden (1980). "The Minor Planet Center". Celestial Mechanics 22: 63–71. Bibcode:1980CeMec..22...63M. doi:10.1007/BF01228757.
- "MPEC 2010-W10". Minor Planet Center.