THE COSMIC DIARY NETWORK

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 ❯

Finding a Space Station with a Backpack Telescope
Published 11/28/2019 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
How I observed the International Space Station (ISS) transit the Moon with a Unistellar eVscope!   Space station! Read it, hear it, or think it, and my mind is immediately transported to the scene in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope when Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, and Han Solo find the Death Star and Obi-Wan says “that’s no moon, it’s a space station” (Lucas 1977). On Saturday morning, November 16, at 3:43 am PDT in Pioneer Park in Woodland, California, I saw both a space station and a moon with a robotic telescope that fits in a backpack! The International Space Station (a.k.a. the ISS) is one of the greatest technological achievements of human creation. The football field sized space station is a scientific laboratory collaborative with... read more ❯

When dunes vary in color
Published 11/11/2019 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
Nov. 11, 2019 It's Veterans Day in the US today. For some it's another day of work. For others it's a day to spend with the family. For most, we honor those who have served in our armed forces. I'm at work today, along with what I call the "holiday skeleton crew" - those of us at the SETI Institute who come to work on some holidays because our schedules allow it and because this is where we want to be. It's been a while since I posted a HiRISE picture. I've been really busy with work, and I've also been fighting off a seemingly endless cold. So to take a break from being sick (oh how I wish I actually could), here's a new HiRISE image that I find quite intriguing. Let's jump into it. Here are some dunes that seem to be made of two distinct colors: HiRISE... read more ❯

Helping Future NASA Missions: The Case of Orus, Target of the Lucy Mission
Published 10/16/2019 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
A Unistellar team traveled to Oman in early September to observe the occultation of a 11-mag star by the Trojan asteroid Orus. We succeeded in capturing the event with one of our eVscopes, an achievement in and of itself considering the small and uncertain path of this occultation. This is an important breakthrough because this detection will be used for another occultation by  Orus again, coming up soon in Australia. On the top of that, this positive detection heralds the arrival of a new tool (the eVscope network) for the study of asteroids, centaurs and trans-Neptunian objects by occultations. Lucy is a Discovery-class mission scheduled for launch by NASA in 2021. Its goal is to study primitive asteroids by conducting a flyby of five trojan asteroids and one main-belt asteroid. Last year, Cathy Olkin, deputy principal investigator of the Lucy mission, sent me a list of occultation events involving those targets... read more ❯

Blackout Lights Out in California? Time to look at the positive and up at the cosmos!
Published 10/11/2019 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
Doom and gloom, the end of the world and all that stuff we like to click on. Time Magazine, New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, and many major news sources are reporting on California's current blackout initiated by PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric Co.) to help prevent another major California wildfire. I live in the Bay Area, but am fortunately not affected by the blackouts in my location (at least not yet). Some reports say that 600,000 have lost their power as of Thursday, October 10, and that another 250,000 are expected to lose power over the next several days (Fuller 2019). Losing electricity is no doubt a horrible nightmare for anyone in our modern society--you can't watch Netflix, play video games, watch television, charge your phone for more Fortnite or Candy Crush, microwave a burrito, etc. Doom and gloom. Cats and dogs raining from the sky. Mass hysteria.  On... read more ❯

Drake Equation Mural in a High School Physics Class
Published 10/2/2019 in Dan's Cosmic Diary Author Dan Peluso
The Attention-Grabbing Intro How well do you remember your first high school physics class? The only thing I recall was dropping an egg off of some bleachers and trying to make a device that protected that egg so that it would not crack. I also remember that there was some math involved and I think I might not have been too happy about that. Other than those memories, I cannot remember anything from that class! Sorry, Mr. Hanlon! Science was not my favorite subject in high school. In fact, it wasn’t until my late 20s that I fell in love with science and changed careers. Before that I couldn’t have cared less about it, but that’s another story. This story is about how I molded art, research, dimensional analysis, and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) into an engaging project in a high school physics class. I’m not a big fan of the traditional... read more ❯

Wind and sun on the dunes
Published 10/1/2019 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
Oct. 1, 2019 It's spring in the northern hemisphere on Mars. Actually, as of today, it's pretty close to northern summer solstice, but the recent crop of released HiRISE images mostly come from the spring season. Northern polar dunes on Mars get covered in winter frost every year. That frost sublimes away, bit by bit, as the sun rises higher and the days grow longer throughout northern spring. It's a fun process to watch, like in this image:   The image is tilted a bit so that north is to the upper right. Sitting on the mosaic-tile of northern patterned ground are the slowly defrosting dunes. The sun shines most directly on the south-facing slopes, so the dark slopes facing toward the lower left are the most free of frost. But there are other dune surfaces... read more ❯

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