Roy A. Tucker (born 1951 in Jackson, Mississippi died March 5th, 2021) is an American astronomer best known for the co-discovery of near-Earth asteroid 99942 Apophis (formerly known as 2004 MN4) along with David J. Tholen and Fabrizio Bernardi of the University of Hawaii. He is a prolific discoverer of minor planets, credited by the Minor Planet Center with the discovery of 702 numbered minor planets between 1996 and 2010. He has also discovered two comets: 328P/LONEOS–Tucker and C/2004 Q1, a Jupiter-family and near-parabolic comet, respectively.
Tucker was raised in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1966, he became a member of Memphis Astronomical Society and received a master’s degree in Scientific Instrumentation from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He works as a senior engineer in the Imaging Technology Laboratory of the University of Arizona and as an instrumentalist at Kitt Peak National Observatory. He observes and discovers minor planets at his private Goodricke-Pigott Observatory in southern Arizona.
In 2002, he was one of five researchers awarded a “Gene Shoemaker Near Earth Object Grant”, by the Planetary Society.
The main-belt asteroid 10914 Tucker, discovered by Paul Comba in 1997, was named in his honor.
The Asteroid known as Apophis 99942
Roy Tucker is an American astronomer, who is credited with the discovery of more than 702 minor planets. Mr Tucker, who is from Jackson, Mississipi, is best known for his co-discovery of the asteroid known as Apophis 99942. The 400-metre-wide space rock continues to pose a destructive threat to Earth.
However, it was a serious concern to NASA when it was first discovered in 2004, as it was thought it could strike the Earth or the moon in 2029.
Mr Tucker revealed how he stumbled across the space rock during Amazon Prime’s “Asteroid Trackers” series.
He said in 2008: “Apophis, that was an interesting experience.
“It was just pure beginner’s luck.
“I saw this little moving thing and thought ‘here’s a fella right here’.
“That’s when I got excited and had to tell myself to take a deep breath and slow down.”
Mr Tucker went on to detail how he feared the asteroid may actually hit Earth.
He added: “Then when I saw when it was going to hit – Friday the 13th – it was too much.
“Suddenly I thought maybe I should stop obsessing it.
“But it’s a human addiction, to hunt for something and find something valuable.”
Additional observations by NASA in 2006 later ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029.
However, Brian Marsden, Director at the Minor Planets Centre, revealed how the events unfolded in 2004.
He said: “It became clear that it was only going to miss us by about 30,000km on April 13, 2029.
“But during the next few days, the impact probability on that date went up to one in 37.
“That was quite surprising.”
However, NASA later revealed it could pass through a gravitational keyhole and set up a future impact in 2036.
By late 2008, the probability that Apophis would pass through the gravitational keyhole was determined to be very small, ruling out an impact in 2036.
The threat is not completely eliminated, though.
NASA did admit in 2013 there is a 150,000/1 chance of a direct impact with Earth in 2068.
- “Minor Planet Discoverers (by number)”. Minor Planet Center. 11 July 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
- Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). “(10914) Tucker”. Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (10914) Tucker. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 748. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_8165. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3.
- “JPL Small-Body Database Browser: 328P/LONEOS-Tucker”. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
- “JPL Small-Body Database Browser: C/2004 Q1 (Tucker)”. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
- “The Team”. Spaceguard India. Archived from the original on 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
- Aguirre, Edwin L. 1999. Sentinel of the Sky – Armed with a Modest Telescope and CCD Camera, Tucson Amateur Roy A Tucker Joins the Ranks of Professional Astronomers Who Have Discovered Near-Earth Objects. Sky and Telescope. 97, no. 3: 76.
- CCD Precision Photometry Workshop, Eric R. Craine, Roy A. Tucker, Jeannette V. Barnes. CCD Precision Photometry Workshop: Proceedings of a Meeting Held at San Diego, California, USA, 6-7, June 1998. Astronomical Society of the Pacific conference series, v. 189. San Francisco, Calif: Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 1999. ISBN 1-58381-015-3