Faulkes Telescope Observations

Asteroids and Comets

The Virtual Impactor 2011 BA12 on 2011 February 8th. Images obtained using the Faulkes Telescope North, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory.

We were able to observe near earth objects (NEOs) such as asteroids and comets by controlling the Faulkes telescopes in Australia and Hawaii over the internet using the Faulkes Telescope Project website. To locate the area of the sky that the object occupied at the time of observation we researched the designations of the object using the Minor Planet Center website. Before we used one of the telescopes we had to ensure that the object was observable.

For an object to be observable it must be at least 30 degrees away from the moon and over 30 degress above the horizon. Also to be considered was the time interval for each exposure of the object, which depends on the brightness of the object and how fast it is moving in arcseconds per minute across the sky. Darker and slower objects needed a longer time interval than brighter and faster ones. We had to take at least two exposures of each object being observed so the displacement of the moving object could be measured using Astrometrica software.

Astrometrica uses a catalogue of known stars and NEOs to recognise the surroundings of the moving object in the sky to generate a list of possible identities for the unknown object. A report of our measurements for different objects was then sent to the Minor Planet Center where the information was added to their database conatining information about the orbits of moving objects, and the database was therefore made more accurate. Some of the objects we observed included asteroids, comets, a virtual impactor and an object 2011 CH33 from the Minor Planet Center's confirmation page.

We would like to say a big thank you to David Asher and the rest of the Observatory Staff for providing us with such an enjoyable work experience placement, and to Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network and the Faulkes Telescope Project for the opportunity to use the telescopes.

By Hannah McInteggart, Caoimhe McCusker and Jordan Adams

2011 February 11th

More astronomical projects with the Faulkes Telescopes

Last Revised: 2011 February 14th