Faulkes Telescope Observations

C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) and other comets

Comet 292P/Li. Images obtained using the Faulkes Telescope South, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory. Click on image to enlarge.

On the 25th of November, 2013, we went on work experience at Armagh Observatory - quite possibly the best place for interested young people (like us) to learn more about the solar system, comets and asteroids and the rest of the universe. On our first day, we were introduced to Dr. David Asher and Dr. Apostolos Christou, who work at Armagh Observatory and spend their days researching asteroids, comets and any other Near Earth Objects (or N.E.O. for short).

We were told by David that we would be observing the stars looking for asteroids, comets and meteors, using both of the Faulkes Telescopes on the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network or LCOGT.net; one being in Australia and the other in Hawaii - to take pictures of the night sky. When we got our pictures and data from the telescopes, we then used Astrometrica to find the moving object amongst the shining stars and galactic giants, and once located we plotted their X and Y co-ordinates.

The morning of the 27th we looked at the videos of potential meteors in the darkness up above of Armagh, with the cameras on the roof facing at different parts of the night sky. Later that day, we were taught how to use Astrometrica which we used to find many moving N.E.Os or other asteroids via the data that was collected using the large 8m SUBARU telescope in Hawaii. Finding over 40 moving objects was exhausting, but definitely worthwhile, as now each one of us know our way around Astrometrica like the back of our hands.

Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring. Images obtained using the Faulkes Telescope South, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory. Click on image to enlarge.

Throughout our week at Armagh Observatory, we used the Faulkes Telescope in Australia to look at an interesting comet from the Oort Cloud C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), that was discovered on the 3rd of January in 2013, by Robert H. McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory. We used the website aerith.net as well as the Minor Planet & Comet Ephemeris Service to help us find the comets and asteroids to observe and whereabouts to locate them in the Australian or Hawaiian night sky. With the information from these two websites we were able to observe C/2013 A1 at a good degree of accuracy with three 60 second exposures on an SDSS r' filter. The comet will pass extremely close to Mars on 19 October 2014, so this is why we chose to observe it. Although we did not yet get the particular type of image file (.fits) to measure, we did however, get good .jpeg images which you can see on this page.

Not only did we observe, but we attended multiple discussions on recent astronomical topics, ranging from the Kepler missions to the delayed Gaia launch, and including advanced topics in the field of physics such as light curves and the polarisation of light, which all of us found interesting – even though we did not completely understand.

James Finnegan, one of the Observatory's technicians, took some time out of his schedule to show us the many very old, interesting telescopes in the Observatory, including the old, extremely accurate clocks that were used along with them.

Comet C/2011 F1 LINEAR. Image obtained using the Faulkes Telescope South, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory. Click on image to enlarge.

Comet 290P/Jager. Image obtained using the Faulkes Telescope North, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory. Click on image to enlarge.

On the last day, we used the Ephemeris of more comets to check if we could use the Faulkes telescope again in Hawaii. Fortunately, the Hawaii telescope was in working order and raring to go – so we used the North Faulkes Telescope to view 290P/Jager, which is a periodic comet, meaning; it has an orbital period of less than 200 years. We got a good colour image of it, which you can see on this page also.

Overall our work experience placement here at Armagh Observatory was very exciting, interesting and extremely beneficial to us and we would like to thank David, our supervisor, Tolis, James, Mark, Ruxandra, and Aileen the secretary of the Observatory and all the other staff at the Observatory for making this week an enjoyable experience for all of us. We would also like to thank the Faulkes Telescope Project and Las Cumbres Observatory for the telescope time and making these observations possible. We wish everybody at the observatory a happy Christmas and a new year of observing our sky, to give us a better understanding of the universe and everything in it.

– Ross, Fionntán and Dylan

2013 November 29th

More astronomical projects with the Faulkes Telescopes

Last Revised: 2013 November 29th