Minor Planet Center
The Minor Planet Center (MPC) is an international organization responsible for collecting observations of asteroids, comets, and other small bodies in the Solar System. Under the authority of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the MPC maintains and publishes information on the most up-to-date observations of these Solar System objects and their orbits. The MPC is hosted by the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and sponsored by a grant from NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations program.
Along with the major planets — Earth, Jupiter, and so forth — the Solar System is home to many small bodies including asteroids, comets, Kuiper Belt objects like Pluto, and their satellites. While the major planets follow predictable orbits around the Sun, these small worlds are sometimes difficult to observe because of their size, low brightness, and distance from Earth. Determining the precise geometry of their orbits is often challenging, and some of the orbits change over time due to gravitational nudges from the planets or the Sun heating their surfaces.
The Minor Planet Center collects observational data from professional and amateur astronomers, recording the discoverer and name of each object. This data is particularly important for tracking near-Earth objects (NEOs), which are asteroids that pass relatively close to Earth. Some of these NEOs are potentially dangerous, but their proximity to us also makes them important observational targets. To date, the MPC has data on over 700,000 minor planets, including over 18,000 NEOs. All MPC data is available to the general public through the website.