THE COSMIC DIARY NETWORK

The new crater
Published 6/15/2020 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
June 15, 2020 Utopia Planitia is an ancient plain in the northern lowlands of Mars, thought to be made of volcanic rocks that were buried, more than 3 billion years ago, by sediments carried by water coming down from the southern highlands (this is the wonderfully vast late Hesperian lowland unit ("lHl") of Tanaka et al., 2014). After the sediments piled up, most of the surface hasn't had a lot happen to it, although in some places there are signs of glacial activity and other modifications by ice. Here, though, what is interesting to me is the scattered windblown bedforms, like those in the scene below (yeah, I'm using the more generic and technical term bedform, because the Mars aeolian community hasn't yet agreed on whether they are dunes, ripples, or something different that's nearly unique to Mars, but rather they're the more ambiguous transverse aeolian ridge, or TAR. Either way, you... read more ❯

Hills with tails
Published 6/8/2020 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
June 8, 2020 No long descriptions or explanations today, just a pretty picture of a lee dune (the dark rippled finger extending down the left side of this image): The rounded gray hills at the top are part of the little central peak of a~25 km diameter crater.  Why is the dune there? Well first let's see where it is to begin with. Here's some context: Dark sand is being blown through this area. Some has gotten caught inside this crater, the way crumbs get stuck in between floor... read more ❯

Defrosting dunes in Jeans crater
Published 5/26/2020 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
May 26, 2020 There are sand dunes near both the north and south poles of Mars. The ones I'm showing today are on the floor of Jeans crater, which is down at 69.5°S (for reference, on Earth, some bits of Antarctica reach to this latitude). Jeans crater is 74 km (46 mi) across, and like many of the larger craters in the southern highlands of Mars, it's got a dune field in it. This far south, the dune field spends a lot of its time covered in seasonal CO2 frost. It's just past Mars' antarctic circle, which means it spends part of its winter in total darkness, and part of it summer in perpetual sunlight. Here's a little snippet of the dune field as of 5 April 2020:   If you're not used... read more ❯

An occultation by the Potentially Hazardous Asteroid 1998 RO2 - Occultation par l'astéroïde géocroiseur 1998RO2
Published 4/13/2020 in Franck Marchis Blog Author inesdemuys
1998RO2 is a  body classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid that has been and will be mentioned in the news  in the next 2 weeks. With a diameter estimated to 2-4 km, it's one of the largest asteroid with this classification. First of all, let's clarify that we can say with confidence that it will NOT hit Earth since its orbit is well  characterized with occultations collected since its discovery in 1998. We know that it will make a close flyby to Earth by the end of April 2020 and will be visible with binocular and naked eye from very dark site. We also know that on April 14 at around 2:14 CET, the asteroid will occult a 7-mag star in the constellation of Cancer for less than 1s. We are asking our Unistellar citizen astronomers to observe this event so we could characterize the asteroid, derive its size, shape... read more ❯

New Unistellar eVscope exoplanet light curve and exoplanet targets this weekend!
Published 4/10/2020 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, With your Unistellar eVscope you have the technology to detect planets orbiting other stars. Think about this--over 30 years ago planets around other stars (exoplanets) were hypothesized, but none yet were detected. Since the most agreed upon "first detection" of an exoplanet in 1992 around a pulsar, astronomers have detected thousands of exoplanets, but this has been done mostly through the use of expensive remote telescopes and highly technical techniques. Now, you and your eVscope can observe exoplanets with a few clicks on your smartphone and some time. I've been posting exoplanet targets for you and me to try and observe for the past few months. This is a pilot citizen science program for exoplanet detections that I am working on for my PhD. The eVscope had already proven successful in observing an exoplanet before I started my PhD work this year, however, we have been trying to... read more ❯

Comet Atlas: A comet for all of us?
Published 4/1/2020 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Finally! After several years of waiting we may soon have, in Comet ATLAS, a bright, naked-eyed comet passing by Earth. The last visitor to do this was Comet 46P/Wirtanen, which was barely visible in December 2018 from highly polluted areas. Current models predict that Comet ATLAS could be brighter and easy to spot in the sky even for novice citizen astronomers. Of course, anyone who has a telescope can already witness brightness and morphological changes in the comet at it approaches the Sun. If, like a lot of us, you’re sheltering at home, this is the ideal time to look up with your binoculars or telescope and enjoy your date with a comet.   Known officially as Comet C/2019 Y4 ATLAS, ATLAS was discovered on Dec. 28 2019 by the robotic survey Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, which is dedicated to the detection of near-Earth objects. At the time of its discovery,... read more ❯

Observe an Occultation by Asteroid Alikoski from San Francisco Bay Area Saturday evening
Published 3/27/2020 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
To all citizen astronomers, Are you at home like most of us? Good news, you can contribute to astronomy from your backyard on Saturday just after sunset. If you have an eVscope that's super easy.  The asteroid (1567) Alikoski will occult a V-11.4 star during up to 2.4 second on Saturday March 29 at 8h18pm (in San Francisco, CA), so just at the beginning of the night . Because of its brightness and the duration of the event,  this event is a great opportunity for all of us to learn about Alikoski, a  rare-type carbonaceous asteroid from the outer region of the main-belt. So if you live between the two red lines and which include the San Francisco Bay Area, you might be able to see this event.   WHAT IS AN OCCULTATION BY AN ASTEROID ? An occultation is an astronomical event defined by the passage of an asteroid in front of a star. Then,... read more ❯

Look up and let the stars lift your spirits AND exoplanet targets for Unistellar eVscope users!
Published 3/27/2020 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
Dear Cosmic Diary guests and Unistellar eVscope users, My heart and best wishes go out to you and to your families during the COVID-19 global crisis. I have been very busy adjusting to this new way of life in quarantine and social distancing to do my part in "flattening the curve" and staying safe, as I'm sure many of you also have. In addition to being a PhD student, I also teach high school physics full-time and my school in the Bay Area, CA, closed down for the pandemic on Friday, March 13. My teacher colleagues and I began teaching completely online beginning the following Tuesday (March 17). This has been a huge adjustment and learning curve for both me and my students, but I am proud of my school and fellow teachers for working so hard at my school and across the world to continue teaching via virtual online instruction and... read more ❯

The landscape in Arabia Terra
Published 3/25/2020 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
March 25, 2020 It's been an interesting few weeks. Like many folks, I'm trying to work from home while keeping my kids busy. I'm fortunate to have a job that allows me to work at home, so I can continue to make progress away from the office. It does mean that my work at the Mars Wind Tunnel at NASA Ames is on hold, as is my planned dust devil fieldwork. That's a bummer. But I've got plenty to work on in the meantime. I thought today I'd show off one of the many craters in Arabia Terra on Mars that has a lovely dune field. Arabia Terra is a vast region in the northern tropics that's full of craters and windswept sedimentary rocks. The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) named Opportunity landed in a part of Arabia Terra called Meridiani Planum. Today I'm going to show you a different part of the... read more ❯

MISSION UNISTELLAR : OCCULTATION PAR L'ASTÉROÏDE SIBERIA - UNISTELLAR MISSION : AN OCCULTATION BY SIBERIA ASTEROID
Published 3/24/2020 in Franck Marchis Blog Author inesdemuys
--- Version française --- The english version is available below. À tous les citizen astronomes d'Unistellar, Si vous possédez un eVscope et que vous souhaitez participer à une campagne de science participative, vous pouvez suivre les instructions ci-dessous. Cette campagne est très simple. Grâce à l'application Unistellar, votre mission se résumera à l'observation d'une étoile lorsqu'elle est occultée par un astéroïde. L'occultation que nous vous proposons d'observer concerne les personnes qui résident dans la zone entre les deux lignes rouges (voir ci-dessous). L'astéroïde (1094) Siberia occultera une étoile de magnitude 11,3 pendant 1,8 seconde ce samedi 28 Mars 2020 aux alentours de 00h58 (heure locale au Québec, CA). Si vous vivez à Montréal, vous êtes chanceux. C'est une grande opportunité pour vous comme pour les scientifiques. QU'EST-CE QU'UNE OCCULTATION PAR UN ASTÉROÏDE ? Une occultation est un évènement astronomique défini par le passage d'un astéroïde devant une étoile. Cette dernière est alors cachée partiellement ou complètement.... read more ❯

TONIGHT: NASA TESS exoplanet target for Unistellar eVscope users on March 7.
Published 3/8/2020 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, Since it was very cloudy last night in California, I thought I'd post another target since forecasts predict only partly cloudy skies tonight. Be sure to check your weather, and be especially careful for any rain, but if the stars align, then go get some exoplanet data!!! 😉 Background Information (skip to the observing directions, if you've seen this before) If you have not seen my previous posts on this topic, my name is Dan Peluso and I am doing my PhD in astrophysics with Franck Marchis (astronomer at the SETI Institute) and as a portion of my research I want to see if it is possible for any astronomy enthusiast around the world to coordinate with planet hunting scientists like us to help contribute to the search for planets around other stars (a.k.a. exoplanets). Currently, one of the best planet hunting missions in operations is NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey... read more ❯

March 6 Weekend Edition: Get your Unistellar eVscopes and help observe NASA TESS exoplanets!
Published 3/6/2020 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, It's time for another Unistellar eVscope exoplanet citizen science campaign. We would love your help observing some exoplanets, so if you want to join us in some planet hunting, then charge up your eVscopes and get ready because we need your help this weekend! Background Information (skip to the observing directions, if you've seen this before) If you have not seen my previous posts on this topic, my name is Dan Peluso and I am doing my PhD in astrophysics with Franck Marchis (astronomer at the SETI Institute) and as a portion of my research I want to see if it is possible for any astronomy enthusiast around the world to coordinate with planet hunting scientists like us to help contribute to the search for planets around other stars (a.k.a. exoplanets). Currently, one of the best planet hunting missions in operations is NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (a.k.a. TESS). Although NASA's... read more ❯

Dome dunes
Published 2/17/2020 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
Feb. 17, 2020 I've been busy but I wanted to squeeze in a quick pretty picture of some Mars dunes. These: These dark hills of windblown sand are on the small side for Mars. The smallest is ~88 m (288 ft) across (for reference the smaller dunes found on Earth are usually 1/4 this size). What's cool about them is the variation in their slip faces: that steep slope that is just crying out for someone to slide down it (or roll down it, or run down it, or go sandboarding🏄🏽‍♀️, or something fun). Some have nice steep slip faces that are easy to find, clearly proclaiming that the wind is blowing mainly toward the bottom of the frame. That must be the case because we're looking at an itty bit of a... read more ❯

Feb. 14 - Feb 22 Weekend Edition: Get your Unistellar eVscopes and help observe exoplanets!
Published 2/14/2020 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, It's time for another Unistellar eVscope exoplanet citizen science campaign. We would LOVE (Happy Valentine's Day by the way) your help observing some exoplanets, so if you want to join us in some planet hunting, then charge up those eVscopes and get ready because we need your help over the next few weekends! If you didn't catch my recent posts on this topic, my name is Dan Peluso and I am doing my PhD in astrophysics with Franck Marchis (astronomer at the SETI Institute) and as a portion of my research I want to see if it is possible for any astronomy enthusiast around the world to coordinate with planet hunting scientists like us to help contribute to the search for planets around other stars (a.k.a. exoplanets). Currently, one of the best planet hunting missions in operations is NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (a.k.a. TESS). Although NASA's TESS is... read more ❯

Occultation by Nyanza on President Day across the US
Published 2/13/2020 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Hello, If you have an eVscope and you want to participate to a scientific campaign on Presidents’ Day, this is something that may interest you. The asteroid 1356 Nyanza will occult a V-12.2 star for up to 6 seconds on February 17 at ~8pm PST and 11pm EST. Yes! This occultation will be visible across the US, from Redding, CA to Philadelphia, PA and Chicago, IL. If a large number of eVscope users observe this event, we will be able to derive the size, shape and eventual existence of moons around the asteroid. So don't wait and take your eVscope out if you are located nearby the visibility path of the event! Astronomers are very interested in the shape and the size of asteroids because this helps them understand how they formed. For instance, a few days ago, a group of astronomers revealed the first pictures of the asteroid Pallas, which is heavily cratered,... read more ❯

What to do tonight? Watch a type Ia supernova with your eVscope
Published 1/31/2020 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
There is a bright type Ia supernova in the elliptical galaxy NGC 4636 named 2020ue. Since its discovery by the Japanese astronomer  Koichi Itagaki  on January 12 2020,  it has gotten brighter and now has reached its maximal magnitude of 12. It can be easily  spotted with your eVscope! How can you observe it? Use the Explore menu and look for "NGC 4636", then click "Goto". When the telescope is done slewing and is tracking, click "enhanced Vision" and you will be able to easily see it even from a city. Located in the constellation of Virgo, the target is visible is the second part of the night from SF/LA/Montreal/NYC/Marseille. (After 1am). Our team in Marseille got a quick image a few hours ago under relatively poor conditions but it's easy to spot. See the  image below. What can you see? "A type Ia supernova (read "type one-a") is a type of supernova that occurs in binary systems... read more ❯

Feb. 1 - Feb. 9 Weekend Edition: Get your Unistellar eVscopes and help observe exoplanets!
Published 1/29/2020 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, It's time for another Unistellar eVscope exoplanet citizen science campaign. We would love your help observing some exoplanets, so if you want to join us in some planet hunting, then charge up those eVscopes and get ready because we need your help over the next few weekends! If you didn't catch my recent posts on this topic, my name is Dan Peluso and I am doing my PhD in astrophysics with Franck Marchis (astronomer at the SETI Institute) and as a portion of my research I want to see if it is possible for any astronomy enthusiast around the world to coordinate with planet hunting scientists like us to help contribute to the search for planets around other stars (a.k.a. exoplanets). Currently, one of the best planet hunting missions in operations is NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (a.k.a. TESS). Although NASA's TESS is an amazing instrument, it still needs... read more ❯

January 24 Edition: Get your Unistellar eVscopes and help observe a NASA TESS exoplanet TONIGHT!
Published 1/24/2020 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, Today is my birthday and for a gift, I want you to be involved in something innovative like participating in the very first second Unistellar exoplanet detection campaign? Then charge up those eVscopes and get ready because we need your help tonight to try and observe a NASA TESS exoplanet! If you didn't catch my last post on this topic, my name is Dan Peluso and I am doing my PhD in astrophysics with Franck Marchis (astronomer at the SETI Institute) and as a portion of my research I want to see if it is possible for any astronomy enthusiast around the world to coordinate with planet hunting scientists like us to help contribute to the search for planets around other stars (a.k.a. exoplanets). Currently, one of the best planet hunting missions in operations is NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (a.k.a. TESS). Although NASA's TESS is an amazing instrument, it... read more ❯

Get your Unistellar eVscopes and help observe an exoplanet this weekend!
Published 1/11/2020 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, Want to be involved in something innovative like participating in the very first Unistellar exoplanet detection campaign? Then charge your eVscope and get ready because we need your help this weekend! My name is Dan Peluso and I am doing my PhD in astrophysics with Franck Marchis (astronomer at the SETI Institute) and as a portion of my research I want to see if it is possible for any astronomy enthusiast around the world to coordinate with planet hunting scientists like us to help contribute to the search for planets around other stars (a.k.a. exoplanets). Exoplanet searches usually require elaborate setups, lots of study, maybe a fancy degree, and a sky mostly free of light pollution. With new technologies, such as with the new Unistellar eVscope and the citizen science network we are developing in coordination with the SETI Institute that is no longer the case! Check out the... read more ❯

The exoplanet Beta Pictoris b. And yet it moves
Published 12/5/2019 in Gemini Planet Imager Author Franck Marchis
Eric Nielsen, formerly a post-doc at the SETI Institute and now a researcher at Stanford University, led a study of the planet beta Pictoris b that combined direct observation of the planet recorded with the Gemini Planet Imager with additional data from space and ground-based observations. The team estimated the mass of this distant planet to be eight to sixteen times that of Jupiter and found that it likely has an elliptical orbit. A video shows the motion of the planet around its star, something that was inconceivable fifteen years ago. Since it was installed on the Gemini-South telescope in 2013, GPI has been continually observing beta Pictoris, studying its debris disk, atmosphere, and orbit, and searching for additional planets in the system. What makes beta Pictoris b special in the family of directly imaged exoplanets is that it is close enough to its star to complete an orbit in just twenty-five years,... read more ❯

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