• MPC Preparation (Info)

  • Specifying Observational Details

    Observers submitting observations by electronic means (generally e-mail) are required to include observer, measurer and telescope details in every submission.

    Observation batches that do not include an observational header will not be recognized as containing observations by the automated processes and will be ignored.

    The observational details are to be contained in a series of header lines, beginning with certain keywords specified below and placed before any observations.

    • The first line must begin COD and be followed by a three-character observatory code. If you are reporting observations from a new site, you must specify XXX as the observatory code.
    • The CON keyword is optional for most observers, but must be given for observations made at sites which use program codes. The CON line must be the second line in the header and must contain as its first element the contact name. Additional contact details may then follow.
    • Other lines, which may follow in any order, begin:
      • OBS (followed by the list of observers, no programs)
      • MEA (followed by the list of measurers, no programs)
      • TEL (followed by details of the telescope)
      • NET (followed by the abbreviated name(s) of the catalogue(s) used for the reductions).
      • BND (followed by single character representing the mag band used for magnitude estimates)
      • COM (followed by a textual comment)
      • NUM (followed by a count of the observations in this batch)
    • An additional keyword, ACK, enables the Minor Planet Center automatically acknowledge receipt of your observations. The text on the ACK line will be e-mailed back to you to let you know that your e-mail arrived. If it is necessary to communicate designations to you, these will be sent after the batch is processed. Some types of objects require special handling; for these, particular words/phrases must be included in the ACK line. See MPEC 2018-W60 and the list towards the bottom of this page for information on what information should be included in the ACK line.
    • AC2 (followed by list of e-mails) must be supplied for cURL submisisons, optional for e-mail submissions. By default, the acknowledgement is sent to the e-mail address from which the original message was sent. You can override this default behavior by specifying the AC2 keyword, following it by one or more Internet-style e-mail address, e.g.:
           AC2 scully@fbi.gov,mulder@fbi.gov
      The only restriction of the number of e-mail addresses is that the total length of the line (including the four characters `AC2 ') must be less than or equal to 80 characters. Note that any e-mail address specified with the AC2 keyword is NOT enclosed within square brackets. Any of the e-mail addresses specified can be forwarding addresses at your local site.

    Please note the following requirements:

    • All lines must be 80 columns or less in width.
    • The keywords must be in capitals and begin in column 1.
    • The keyword must be followed by a space (ASCII 32).
    • The CON, OBS and MEA lines may extend onto a second or subsequent line, repeating the keyword as necessary.
    • Names of individuals must be specified as initials + surname with spaces separating each part of the name.
    • Multiple names on the same line are separated by ", ".
    • Initials given must be as given on official documents (e.g., passports, driving licenses, etc.). If your name is `Robert', but you use `Bob' in day-to-day usage, you must still specify your initial as `R.' not `B.'.
    • Names must be specified as mixture of capital and lower-case letters, they must be separated from any following name(s) by a comma and they must not be broken across lines.
    • If more than one initial is given, there must be a space between each of the initials: e.g., `J. R. R. Tolkien'.
    • Hyphenated first names should be abbreviated with the hyphen: e.g., `Jean-Francois Hulot' would be `J.-F. Hulot'.
    • Names that contain non-standard characters (e.g., accents or cedillas) may be specified using standard TeX notation--alternatively, an explanation of any special characters required must be included above the header.
    • When there are multiple versions of the NET catalogue, be sure to include the version identifier. Don't simply specify "USNO" or "GSC": write them as, for example, "USNO-B1.0" or "GSC-2.2".
    • Specification of telescopes must follow the following format: aperture, focal ratio (optional), type of instrument and CCD specifier. Do not specify specific brands of CCD. Do not split telescope details across different TEL lines. Valid examples are 1.0-m f/4.3 reflector + CCD or 0.28-m f/6 Schmidt-Cassegrain + CCD. Further information on telescope details is available.
    • All keywords may be repeated within the body of observations as required. The values associated with repeated keywords apply from the time they are first defined to the time that they are redefined.
    • The contact's e-mail address must be specified within square brackets in the Internet style. Please note that e-mail addresses are given ONLY for the contact person.
    • Only one contact name and address may be given.
    • Some types of objects need special handling; submissions containing such objects must include certain words/phrases in order to insure that they are processed correctly. These words/phrases must either be included in the the ACK header line (preferred) or in the e-mail subject line (only for e-mail submissions in the 80-character format), and are not case sensitive:
      • "NEOCP" (Submissions containing observations currently on the NEOCP),
      • "PCCP" (Submissions containing observations currently on the PCCP),
      • "NEW NEO" or "NEO CANDIDATE" (Submissions containing observations of New NEO Candidates),
      • "NEW NATURAL SATELLITE" or "NEW SATELLITE" (Submissions containing observations of New Natural Satellite Candidates),
      • "NEW TNO" or "NEW KBO" or "NEW DISTANT" or "NEW CENTAUR" (Submissions containing observations of new TNO/Centaur Candidates),
      • "NEW COMET" (Submissions containing observations of New Comet Candidates).

    Examples of valid headers are as follows:

    COD 500
    CON S. Holmes, 221B Baker Street, London NW1 4JW, England
    CON [sholmes@mycroft.holmes.gov.uk]
    OBS H. Poirot, P. Mason, L. Columbo, C. Chan
    MEA J. Watson
    TEL 0.50-m f/3.0 reflector + CCD
    NET GSC-1.0
    ACK Batch 001: five new tnos
    AC2 dwatson@mycroft.holmes.gov.uk
    COD 500
    OBS D. K. Scully, F. W. Mulder, W. Skinner
    ACK Batch 042: The truth is in here
    The second example shows the minimal header that should be supplied: the contact address, telescope and catalogue details will be taken from a default file, and the list of measurers will be assumed to be the same as the list of observers. You should only use the minimal header form if you are the only observer at that code: don't use the form for sites with multiple programs.

    The format of the TEL and NET lines must be as illustrated in recent MPCs (note that specific makes of CCD are not mentioned).

    If this is your first submission and your observing site does yet have an observatory code, this must be specified as:

    An observatory code will be supplied upon acceptance of the observations for publication.

    If your observatory code distinguishes between different programs you may specify the program code after the observatory code, as in the following example:

    COD 675 4
    Note that program codes are assigned by the MPC, not the observer.

    The following examples show incorrect headers (with the reason(s) given in parentheses on the offending line(s)):

    COD 500
    OBS J.M. Jarre          (Initials in name not separated by a space)
    COD 500
    OBS Vangelis Papathanassiou              (First name in full, rather than initial)
    MEA M. OLDFIELD                          (Name entirely in capitals)
    TEL 0.50-m f/4.5 reflector + Graff1 CCD  (Make of CCD must not be mentioned)
    NET Guide Star Catalogue                 (Use abbreviation GSC)
    OBS J. Garcia           (No COD line)
    OBS P. McCartney
    COD 500                 (COD line must come first)