Faulkes Telescope Observations

NEO Confirmation Page objects and more

Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) on 2013 October 30th, imaged twice with a green/blue-green filter (SDSS g'), then twice in red (SDSS r'). Images obtained using the Faulkes Telescope South, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory. Click on image to get larger region.

Gary, Callum and Peter: `Stars' of the Future

The three of us came to Armagh Observatory for work experience between the 28th to the 30th October 2013. We were greeted by Dr. David Asher who was going to be our supervisor/boss for the three days of which we were here. He introduced us to Faulkes Telescope (South) project. The telescope we were using is located in Australia. We used this telescope to observe several asteroids and comets such as: `2001 AV43' and `2013 A1'. Furthermore we confirmed the existence of many NEOs such as: `2013 UW8'; `2013 UC9' and `2013 UG9'.

On the first day we introduced ourselves to the programme `Astrometrica' and used archive images to ensure we had a profound understanding of the computer programme. And then the moment came. It was time to control the telescope. We sat down in earnest in front of our glistening Apple computer and logged on to Faulkes' website. We skilfully used the telescope to capture 3 images of both 2013 UG9 and 2013 UH9 before switching our attention to the deeply fascinating asteroid AV43 which Tolis told us has a very Earth like orbit and an extremely fast rotation period. In the dying seconds of the session Gary's Bolt-esque speed with the mouse managed to capture us a 9th image of the asteroid.

After our observations, we took a break from the high intensity of our image processing and were treated to a splendid tour of the Observatory from the director, Professor Mark Bailey. At lunch we had the pleasure of visiting the `star studded' Planetarium for a wonderful show entitled `Beyond the Blue' before returning to the Observatory to report the results of our investigation. By using different apertures with Astrometrica we were able to compare how the measured magnitude of the asteroid changed as the aperture changed as well as analysing how the magnitude changed as the images were traversed with different apertures.

We returned on Tuesday and analysed data from the Subaru telescope, perked on top of a mountain in Hawaii which at a massive 8.2 metres is one of the world' s largest telescopes. We were scouring the data for asteroids that were elusively lurking in the shadows. Then, we prepared for our next observation session by using the Near Earth Object Confirmation Page to identify objects that we could find. On the second day we had some difficulty finding NEOs with the correct R.A, Decl., Magnitude and altitude but after some perseverance we managed to find 3. Following another enthralling observation session we used Astrometrica to find C/2013 A1, a comet which will soon have a close encounter with Mars as well as the candidate NEOs. But then disaster struck. Although we managed to find 2013 A1 and the other asteroids, 2013 UR8 was nowhere to be found. From the clutches of defeat Callum had a stroke of genius and inverted the image. Although we were able to find it in one image with this innovative technique we could not find it in both and so could not report it to the Minor Planet Centre. Nevertheless we sent away our findings which confirmed the existence of several asteroids including 2013 UC9.

Arriving for our last day of work experience, we anxiously awaited the beginning of our final use of the Faulkes Telescope. Today we were again observing 2013 A1 but this time Tolis gave us the brilliant idea to use different filters in order to compare how brightness changed with red and green light. We also discovered another asteroid, but today in order to challenge ourselves in our last outing with the telescope we attempted to find 2013 UW8, which moved at a measly 0.42 arc seconds minute^-1 which according to Peter's expert calculations meant that the asteroid would need 143 seconds to move just 1 arc second in the sky. Thus, we ensured we took copious exposures of the asteroid to ensure we achieved movement in our blinked images in Astrometrica. Nervously we watched the computer. We blinked the images. And there it was! Due to our careful considerations we managed to find the slow moving asteroid.

So, at the end of a fascinating 3 days we would like to thank the Faulkes Telescope Project and Las Cumbres Observatory for providing such a wonderful experience and for the use of their state of the art telescope (and thanks to the weather too for staying clear!). Finally, we couldn't forget to extend our most sincere gratitude to Armagh Observatory's staff, in particular Tolis and David for their expert knowledge, vast experience and friendly demeanour.

Callum Best, Gary Black, Peter Mc Manus

2013 October 30th

[Note added Oct 31: 2013 UH9, UG9, UC9, UW8 and UR8 were all NEO Confirmation Page objects at the time of observation. Official designations 2013 UG9 etc. are assigned by the MPC after sufficient confirmation. These MPC designations have been substituted for the preliminary NEOCP designations in the above text.

Results for two of the objects appeared on Minor Planet Electronic Circulars: ]

More astronomical projects with the Faulkes Telescopes

Last Revised: 2013 October 31st