Saying Hello to Pluto from San Francisco with the eVscope

Saying Hello to Pluto from San Francisco with the eVscope
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Observing Report #2 – September 25, 2017

A few days ago we announced the direct imaging of Pluto through the eyepiece of a Unistellar eVscope prototype located in Marseille, France. To make sure that this was not a fluke, I decided to try to observe Pluto from San Francisco— more precisely, from my little backyard in the middle of the city. And we succeeded!

Animation showing two observations of the same area of the sky taken with Unisteller’s eVscope. The dwarf planet Pluto (cyan circles) is moving with respect to the stars. The green circle shows the location of a cosmic ray that hit the detector during the recording of one frame.
Animation showing two observations of the same area of the sky taken with Unisteller’s eVscope. The dwarf planet Pluto (cyan circles) is moving with respect to the stars. The green circle shows the location of a cosmic ray that hit the detector during the recording of one frame.

Seeing Pluto With Your Own Eyes From Your Backyard With Unistellar’s eVscope

Seeing Pluto With Your Own Eyes From Your Backyard With Unistellar’s eVscope
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One of the biggest challenges in popular astronomy is finding specific objects in the night sky. Most nebulae, galaxies, and asteroids are invisible to the naked eye, and locating them in the immense vastness of space has frustrated people for centuries.

Picture taken with a cellphone in the eyepiece of the telescope. The green circle labels the position of Pluto, which is visible.
Picture taken with a cellphone in the eyepiece of the telescope. The green circle labels the position of Pluto, which is visible.

That’s why most amateur astronomers follow a common but frustrating path. They buy a telescope, look at the moon, a few bright stars, and five planets—and then just give up. After only a few months of use, those telescopes go up for sale on eBay or into the basement.

Unistellar is determined to change this. Our new eVscope’s Autonomous Field Detection (AFD) feature will allow novice astronomers to find noteworthy celestial objects without performing complicated alignment procedures. Thanks to AFD’s intelligent pointing and tracking, astronomers can spend more time observing and less time wondering what they’re looking at. You’ll always know exactly what you’re seeing.

AGU Fall Meeting 2014: Solar System Small Bodies: Relics of Formation and New Worlds to Explore

Can you believe it is December already!? As usual, it is a busy month with the AGU Fall Conference.  I co-organized a session on small solar system bodies with Padma Yanamandra-Fisher (PSI)  and Julie Castillo (JPL).  We will talk about recent discoveries in this emerging field including the discovery of rings around Chariklo, the understanding of regolith motion on asteroids, the new lander for Hayabusa 2 (MASCOT) and off course adaptive optics observations of asteroids. Below more info. See you there!

Where: Thursday, December 18, 2014 01:40 PM – 03:40 PM
When: Moscone West 3002

Why: The composition and physical properties of Small Solar System Bodies (SSSBs), remnants of the formation of planets, are key to better understand the origins of our solar system and their potential as resources is necessary for robotic and human exploration. Missions such as ESA/Gaia, NASA/OSIRIS-REx, JAXA/Hyabusa-2, NASA/Dawn and NASA/New Horizons, to study asteroids, comets, dwarf planets and TNOs are poised to provide new in situ information. on SSSBs.  Recent remote observations of bright and main belt comets; asteroid Chariklo, with its ring system; asteroid and KBO binaries illustrate that the distinction between comets and asteroids is blurred, providing a new paradigm for such classification. This session welcomes abstracts on the remarkable results bringing information on the internal structure and composition of SSSBs based on space and ground-based data, numerical models, as well as instrument/mission concepts in theprospect of future exploration.

Artistic representation of the triple asteroid system showing the large 270-km asteroid Sylvia surrounded by its two satellites, Romulus and Remus. The differentiated interior of the asteroid is shown through a cutaway diagram. The primary asteroid of the system may have a dense, regularly-shaped core, surrounding by a fluffy or fractured material. The two moons are shown to be strongly elongated, and composed of two lobes, as suggested by the recently observed occultation data by the satellite Romulus. (credits: D. Futselaar & F. Marchis)
Artistic representation of the triple asteroid system showing the large 270-km asteroid Sylvia surrounded by its two satellites, Romulus and Remus. The differentiated interior of the asteroid is shown through a cutaway diagram. The primary asteroid of the system may have a dense, regularly-shaped core, surrounding by a fluffy or fractured material. The two moons are shown to be strongly elongated, and composed of two lobes, as suggested by the recently observed occultation data by the satellite Romulus. (credits: D. Futselaar & F. Marchis)

Surprising discovery: a ring around an asteroid

Some may say that our universe is full of beauty, others argue that it is our solar system that surprises us the most, but ultimately I will say that it is the world of small solar system bodies which is strikingly full of diversity. Today’s announcement of the discovery of rings around the Centaur Chariklo by an international team of astronomers is a vivid proof that small solar system bodies have not yet revealed all their secrets.

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Asteroid Minerva finds its magical weapons in the sky

The International Astronomical Union has chosen the names Aegis and Gorgoneion for the two moons of the asteroid (93) Minerva.  My team discovered the small moons in 2009 using the W. M. Keck Telescope and its adaptive optics system. We proposed the names after receiving input from the public.

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Artistic view of the Triple Asteroid System (93) Minerva. The 150km primary at the center is surrounded by its two moons S/(93) 1 Aegis and S/(93) 2 Gorgoneion.

Everything you need to know about asteroids at the AGU Fall Meeting

It is this time of the year again… I am convening and chairing a session on Asteroids entitled “Characterizing Small Solar System Bodies” tomorrow Tuesday at the December 9th at AGU Fall Meeting. It will be composed of nine talks presented in the morning and twenty posters Characterizing Small Solar System Bodies in the afternoon.FrontPage_session

How we collaborate with a group of amateur space sleuths to study the triple asteroid (87) Sylvia

I am back from the 45th annual Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Denver, Colorado, where I presented my findings on the study of the triple asteroid system (87) Sylvia through a poster and in a press conference (video here). Located in the asteroid main-belt, we know that (87) Sylvia possesses two moons since our publication in Nature Journal in 2005. Our team  has combined observations from professional-class telescopes and from small telescopes used by amateur astronomers to reveal that this 270-km diameter main-belt asteroid has a complex interior, probably linked to the way the multiple system was formed.

Artistic representation of the triple asteroid system showing the large 270-km asteroid Sylvia surrounded by its two satellites, Romulus and Remus. The differentiated interior of the asteroid is shown through a cutaway diagram. The primary asteroid of the system may have a dense, regularly-shaped core, surrounding by a fluffy or fractured material. The two moons are shown to be strongly elongated, and composed of two lobes, as suggested by the recently observed occultation data by the satellite Romulus. (credits: D. Futselaar & F. Marchis)
Artistic representation of the triple asteroid system showing the large 270-km asteroid Sylvia surrounded by its two satellites, Romulus and Remus. The differentiated interior of the asteroid is shown through a cutaway diagram. The primary asteroid of the system may have a dense, regularly-shaped core, surrounding by a fluffy or fractured material. The two moons are shown to be strongly elongated, and composed of two lobes, as suggested by the recently observed occultation data by the satellite Romulus. (credits: D. Futselaar & F. Marchis)

China joined the interplanetary club by successfully imaging the asteroid Toutatis

This exceptional result was brought to my attention late on Friday evening, but it clearly deserves a short post on this blog. Chang’E 2, a chinese mission dedicated to the exploration of the moon was recycled to explore the Near-Earth Asteroid (4179) Toutatis  and succeeded.

Chang'e 2 images of (4179) Toutatis captured at 93–240 km distance between 16:30:09–16:30:24, maximum resolution 10 meters/pixel