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Asteroid Club - learn to identify and observe asteroids and minor planets. al-asteroid.pdf
(257 KB)

The Astronomical League's

AL Asteroid Coordinator

Larry Robinson, 
14680 W. 144th St.
Olathe, KS 66062-9765
Telephone: (913) 780-4239

E-mail: lrobinsn@ix.netcom.com

The Asteroid Club is one of the Astronomical League's observing award programs. Its purpose is to encourage amateurs to learn to identify and observe asteroids. While the deep sky objects observable by amateurs remain the same year after year, the asteroids (like the other planets) are constantly moving against the background of the constellations. By learning to identify asteroids you will greatly enhance your observing skills.

Since asteroids appear as points of light rather than extended objects, they do not suffer from light pollution as much as deep sky objects. Hence an asteroid observing program can be carried out quite successfully from urban or suburban locations.

Some amateurs who have mastered the asteroid observing techniques have gone on to make serious scientific contributions. These include:

  • astrometry, the precise measurement of an asteroid's position at a given time
  • the discovery of new asteroids
  • photometry, the measurement of an asteroid's brightness, and its variation
  • the timing of asteroid occultations

The Asteroid Club offers two levels of awards as shown below. Next to each level there is listed the minimum size telescope that may be needed to observe the specified number of asteroids.

Regular member

25 asteroids



Gold member

100 asteroids

Certificate & Pin


To qualify for an AL Asteroid Club Certificate, you must be a member of the Astronomical League, either through an affiliated club or as a Member-at-Large, and you must observe and confirm the required number of asteroids. The American Association of Amateur Astronomers is a member society of the Astronomical League.

Your observations should be recorded in a notebook and should include: 

  • the location, 
  • date and time of the observation, 
  • the number and name of the asteroid, and 
  • the instrument and power used

Each observation should include a sketch showing the position of the asteroid in relation to the nearby stars.

Each asteroid must be observed at least twice in different positions, and at the time of the second observation you must verify that the object is no longer in the position where it was observed the first time. If using CCD imaging, it is sufficient either to print the two positions or measure them and simply report the positions of the asteroid according to standard astrometric procedures.

To receive your certificate, you should send a copy of your observations to the AL Asteroid Coordinator:

Larry Robinson, AL Asteroid Coordinator
14680 W. 144th St.
Olathe, KS 66062-9765
Telephone: (913) 780-4239
e-mail: lrobinsn@ix.netcom.com

Click HERE to Download the AL's Asteroid Club Observing Guide in Adobe PDF Format

For the regular certificate (25 asteroids), copies of your sketches should also be submitted. Please send copies and retain the originals. If measuring astrometry of objects you may simply e-mail your report. If you wish to have the copies returned to you, include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Upon verification of your observations, your certificate (and pin) will be forwarded to you or your society's "Awards Coordinator", whomever you choose. Be sure to specify which you prefer and provide the necessary address.

You may wish to obtain the publication for this program, "Asteroid Club Observing Guide". It contains general information about asteroids, techniques and hints on how to find them, further information on how to sketch an asteroid's position in a star field, and how to record observations. A printed copy is available from:

Astronomical League Sales
P.O. Box 572
West Burlington, IA 52655


There are many resources available for observing asteroids. The Minor Planet Center maintains a web page at cfa-www.harvard.edu/cfa/ps/mpc.html which contains many resources to assist you in finding asteroid positions and help you develop a list of targets to observe. Another resource is Lowell Observatory's Asteroid Resource Page at http://asteroid.lowell.edu/

There are numerous computerized planetarium programs that have asteroid features. Some of those are:

  • SkyMap (SkyMap Software)
  • Guide (Project Pluto)
  • xephem (E. Downey)
  • Home Planet (J. Walker)
  • MyStars! (Relative Data Products)
  • TheSky (Software Bisque)
  • Starry Night (Sienna Software)
  • Deep Space (D. S. Chandler)
  • PC-TCS (D. Harvey)
  • Earth Centered Universe (Nova Astronomics)
  • Dance of the Planets (ARC)
  • MegaStar V4.x (E.L.B. Software)
  • SkyChart 2000.0 (Southern Stars Software)
  • Voyager II (Carina Software)
  • SkyTools (CapellaSoft)
  • Autostar (Meade Instruments)

You can even go to the Minor Planet Center's Minor Planet Ephemeris Service (cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/MPEph/MPEph.html) and download a file for any asteroid you may may wish to display on any of these programs and get a file back that allows to you to track the asteroid real time and print your own finder charts.

Asteroid observing can be great fun and if you have access to a CCD camera, it can be exciting to set up your own Observing Station and participate in the excitement of discovery and real science!

For more information on the Astronomical League's Asteroid Club, you may visit their web site: http://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/asteroid/astrclub.html

Larry Robinson, AL Asteroid Coordinator
14680 W. 144th Street
Olathe, KS 66062-9765
(913) 780-4239
E-mail: lrobinsn@ix.netcom.com

AAAA Member Larry Robinson of Olathe, KS, also serves as Asteroid Observing Coordinator for the Astronomical League. In this picture from 1999, Larry is in the center, flanked by then AL Treasurer Jackie Beucher, and Brian Warner, former editor of the Minor Planet Bulletin, from Colorado. 

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You MUST be a member of the Astronomical League, either through membership in an affiliated astronomical society or as a Member-at-Large, to receive certification for the Asteroid Club.

As a member of the AAAA, not only are you eligible to earn this observing award, but you will also get your own subscription to the Astronomical League's newsletter, the REFLECTOR, as well as our own quarterly newsletter, The American Astronomer.

Join the AAAA, the first nationwide astronomy club for all amateur astronomers.


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