Friday, January 11, 2019

Observing 3 salient asteroids for more than 80 hours

Source: NASA

The last issue of the scientific journal - the Minor Planet Bulletin has recently published our work on the calculation of the rotational period of 3 asteroids, namely, 232 Russia, 1117 Reginita and (11200) 1999 CV121. 

Observations were collected through collaborative campaigns between the months of 2018 April and July by Winston Grech, Stephen M Brincat and myself.

These campaigns amount to over 1000 photometric images with a photographic exposure that ranged from 4 to 6 minutes per image, giving a total of more than 80 hours of observation time.

The asteroid 232 Russia resides within the inner asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter while 1999 CV121 (no name has been given yet to this asteroid) is found somewhere within the middle asteroid belt. The asteroid 1117 Reginita is a member of the Flora asteroid family that also resides within the inner regions of the asteroid belt.

This is a link to our scientific paper published in Volume 46 of the Minor Planet Bulletin.

This study is also available through the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System:

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Let the dust settle on Mars

Surface albedo of planet Mars under moderate seeing conditions

First light through my new ASI290MC. This camera generates huge data, with around 1GB per 4000 images, and frame rates as high at 200fps, even though PC USB port is 2.0.

Seeing conditions are not favourable so far. Mars is quite low in the sky, even at its culmination. At this low elevation in the sky, our atmosphere is quite turbulent. Another thing that is not favouring crisp imaging is the extensive dust still present in the martian atmosphere. The situation is now improving when compared to a month ago

Our latest discovery about asteroid 1856 Ruzena

Source: JPL NASA

We studied the dim light being reflected from the main-belt asteroid 1856 Ruzena to derive its rate of rotation on its own axis. A notification for collaboration was circulated and we found out that a team from the University of Maryland at the US was also studying this same asteroid.

A collaborative campaign led by Dr. Hayes-Gehrke  (from the Department of Astronomy, Maryland University, USA) was initiated and our observations were consolidated into one common data set.

Our joint 2018 results show that this asteroid (which was unknown prior to our research) rotates on its own axis every 5.96 hours.

This is a link to our scientific paper published in Volume 45 of the Minor Planet Bulletin.

This study is also available through the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System:

Monday, December 31, 2018

Billions and Billions of stars ... and what about life?

NGC 3711 group of galaxies

I took this deep sky image from my observatory on 29th July, 2017 using a Moravian G2-1600 cooled CCD. I wanted to include a diversity of galaxies types separated by huge distances.

NGC 7331 (centre right) is an unbarred spiral galaxy about 40 million light-years away from us in the constellation Pegasus. It is the brightest member of the NGC 7331 Group of galaxies. From the image taken  it can be seen that the core of this galaxy appears to be slightly off-center, with one side of the disk appearing to extend further away from the core than the opposite side.

The other members of the group are the lenticular or unbarred spirals NGC 7335 and 7336, the barred spiral galaxy NGC 7337 (shown at the periphery of the image) and the elliptical galaxy NGC 7340. These galaxies lie at much longer distances of approximately 332, 365, 348 and 294 million light years, respectively.

Hubble classification of Galaxies

NGC 7331 was discovered by William Herschel in 1784.