Minor Planet Center
The Minor Planet Center operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is a research institute of the Smithsonian Institution headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it is joined with the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics .-History:The SAO was founded in 1890 by...

 (SAO), which is part of the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) along with the Harvard College Observatory
Harvard College Observatory
The Harvard College Observatory is an institution managing a complex of buildings and multiple instruments used for astronomical research by the Harvard University Department of Astronomy. It is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and was founded in 1839...


Under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union
International Astronomical Union
The International Astronomical Union IAU is a collection of professional astronomers, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy...

, it is the official organization in charge of collecting observational data for minor planet
Minor planet
An asteroid group or minor-planet group is a population of minor planets that have a share broadly similar orbits. Members are generally unrelated to each other, unlike in an asteroid family, which often results from the break-up of a single asteroid...

s (asteroid
Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

s) and comet
A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are both due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet...

s, calculating their orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

s and publishing this information via the Minor Planet Circular
Minor Planet Circular
The Minor Planet Circulars is a scientific journal that is generally published on the date of each full moon by the Minor Planet Center. The Circulars contain astrometric observations, orbits and ephemerides of minor planets, comets and certain natural satellites...

s. It runs a number of free on-line services for observers to assist them in observing minor planets and comets. The complete catalogue of minor planet orbits (MPCORB, sometimes referred to as the 'Minor Planet Catalogue') may also be freely downloaded.

The Minor Planet Center was set up at the University of Cincinnati in 1947, under the direction of Paul Herget
Paul Herget
Paul Herget was an American astronomer.Herget taught astronomy at the University of Cincinnati. He was a pioneer in the use of machine methods, and eventually digital computers, in the solving of scientific and specifically astronomical problems .During World War II he applied these same talents...

. Upon Herget's retirement in 1978, the MPC was moved to the SAO, under the direction of Brian Marsden. Since 2006, the director of the MPC is Timothy B. Spahr
Timothy B. Spahr
Timothy B. Spahr is an American astronomer.He works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as director of the Minor Planet Center, has discovered numerous asteroids and is credited as a co-discoverer of one satellite of Jupiter and one of Saturn .He also discovered two periodic comets...

, who oversees a staff of 4.

External links

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