Asteroid "Jos"

Having recently named an asteroid for retiring geophysicist Ken Larner to commemorate his career, I thought I should certainly also name an asteroid for my graduate student advisor, the distinguished geophysicist Jon Claerbout.

However, after discussions with his colleagues, it became clear that Jon would more appreciate an asteroid named for his son Jos, who had shown amazing promise only to die tragically young. I did not know Jos well myself, but all those who did thought he was extraordinary.

The discovery

Asteroid 84340 Jos

Here are my discovery images of the asteroid 2002 TO58, discovered October 2, 2002 (Universal time, the evening of Tuesday, October 1 in Texas). There are four images; the asteroid moves up and to the right. In the first image a box flashes to show the location of the asteroid.

Someone needed to go out that Tuesday night to batten down the hatches of the George Observatory's East dome in preparation for a possible landfall by the monster Hurricane Lili late the next night. At the time, it appeared to be making a beeline straight for us. When I got out to the observatory I couldn't help but notice that even though there was a hurricane bearing down on us out in the Gulf, there were some very nice clear intervals. The stars were shining brightly. I figured what the heck, I can image for a while and THEN batten the place down!

I discovered asteroid 2002 TO58, later to be named ``Jos'', while shooting followup on another recent club discovery, 2002 RR132, at about 7:30PM. That night turned out to be my single most successful discovery night ever: I was credited with five solo discoveries from three different fields observed on that night.

Hurricane Lili reached force 4 (a monster hurricane capable of devastation) the next day, but fortunately dramatically weakened just before landfall. It missed Houston and spared New Orleans as well. It passed to the East of us into Western Louisiana. We had one night of clouds, then the next night was clear again, and Paul Garossino (with astrometry help from Alex Cruz) used the clear skies to get confirmation nights on all my discovery candidates. (You don't get any credit for a single-night unconfirmed observation.)

After we followed our new discovery for a couple of months, 2002 TO58 went on the fast track for numbering with help from Canadian geophysicist Andrew Lowe, who was able to extrapolate the orbital arc into the past to find overlooked archival images of the asteroid in online databases: first from 2002, then 2001, and finally all the way back to 1976. Those data points allowed the minor planet center to link in several more isolated single-night observations that had languished in their database waiting confirmation for years. (Generally it takes about 4 years of observations before an object can be numbered, and thence named.)

The naming

I got help from Biondo Biondi and Matthias Schwab in writing the citation. We quickly realized that we could do no better than the enscription on Jos's grave. (I had to very slightly modify it to fit the asteroid name-citation rules.)

Here is the official citation, as turned into the CSBN, the official international body of astronomers that must approve all proposed minor planet names:

Jos                   84340   Jos Dianovich Claerbout, beloved son of Jon

(84340) Jos = 2002 TO58
     Discovered 2002 Oct. 2 by J. Dellinger at Needville.
     Jos Dianovich Claerbout (1974-1999), beloved son of Jon and Diane
Claerbout, was a writer, web engineer, film producer, and creator of
magnificent hats. Everything to him was amazing. Everything in his life was
superlative, and he wanted everyone else to experience life in that way. He
was a true singing heart.

The orbit

Here is an orbital animation of asteroid Jos courtesy of JPL.

Here is the official orbital specification from the Minor Planet Ephemeris Service:

(84340) Jos

Epoch 2005 Aug. 18.0 TT = JDT 2453600.5                 MPC
M 153.45258              (2000.0)            P               Q
n   0.26836108     Peri.  338.18372     -0.59088408     -0.80638454
a   2.3804352      Node   148.02109     +0.74685361     -0.55823884
e   0.0850412      Incl.    2.65089     +0.30506670     -0.19522646
P   3.67           H   16.3           G   0.15           U   1
From 100 observations at 6 oppositions, 1976-2004, mean residual 0".53.

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