New Horizons Approaching Pluto

Stay tuned over the next 10 days as New Horizons spacecraft approaches Pluto!!!  Closest approach occurs on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 7:49:57 a.m. EDT.  You can follow along before, during, and after the flyby through the NASA New Horizons Website and the mission website run by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory where Marc will be working through end of July.

You can also follow along each day by checking out Pluto in a Minute!

Finally, we encourage RECON team members to contribute photos of how bright their communities would appear at noon on Pluto by checking out Pluto Time.

New Horizons Image




First Full RECON Campaign!

Over 50 RECON communities are geared up for our first full RECON occultation campaign! Classical KBO 2001 FE193 is predicted to occult a 15.8 magnitude star in the constellation Virgo around 11:50 PM PDT/MST on the evening of Wednesday, June 10, 2015 (2015 June 11 06:50 UT). Recently updated predictions place the centerline for the event to the south of the network, but uncertainty estimates indicate that RECON is well within reach of the shadow.

Predicted shadow path for 2001 FE193 (1-sigma uncertainty of 7,572 km)

Predicted shadow path for 2001 FE193 (1-sigma uncertainty of 7,572 km)

Clear skies are predicted over most of Washington, Oregon, and Arizona, while conditions should be improving in California and central Nevada around the time of the event.

This campaign represents the culmination of three years of recruiting, equipping, training, and planning. Needless to say, we are extremely enthusiastic to learn how things go during this first full functional test of the network.

Good luck to all of our teams!

Prepping for Our First Full RECON Campaign!

After almost three years of planning, recruitment, and training, we are coming up on our first full RECON campaign event!  On the evening of Wednesday, June 10 local time (11 June, 2015 around 06:50 UT), classical KBO 2001 FE193 will occult star UC4-419-056744. For more information on this event, visit our 2001 FE193 Event Page.

While the 1-sigma cross-track uncertainty in the shadow position for this event is currently over 7,500 km, data recently collected using the 4-m telescope at Kitt Peak will be used to update this prediction prior to the event. Regardless of the uncertainty, this campaign represents the first functional test of the full RECON network and will provide great observing experience for all 50+ RECON teams and any other observers who join in the campaign. To indicate that your team is prepared to participate, please have a representative from your observing team complete a Pre-Event Confirmation Form.

No More Broken Tripods!

At the Northern RECON Training Workshop in Pasco last month, we figured out an adjustment to the CPC-1100 tripod that fixes a failure mode that has been occurring throughout the project. Over the course of the project, several spreader-arm brackets at the base of the tripod have been broken by team members trying to open overly stiff tripod legs. The fix involves loosening the three leg bolts at the top of the tripod.

Click here to check out the guide for this one-time adjustment . . .

Tripod Fix 1 rotate crop

and say good bye to broken tripods for the remainder of the RECON Project!!!

Laptop Power Supply

A couple of teams have had problem with their laptops that were very puzzling. In this case, a working computer became non-functional and unresponsive. The initial guess was a dead battery but the machines were reported to have been “plugged in all day”. It turns out that the problem is a bit of confusion over the proper power supply for the laptop. The power connector for the laptop happens to be essentially the same as the rest of the barrel connectors for the other equipment. The correct power supply for the laptop provides 19V power. Everything else provides 12V.

The confusion centers on the extra power supply provided with your MallinCAMs. In normal circumstances we don’t use this. A picture of one of these power supplies is shown below:

MallinCAM power supply.  This unit provides 12V power.  It is not normally used but can be useful for indoor testing.

MallinCAM power supply. This unit provides 12V power. It is not normally used but can be useful for indoor testing.

There are two versions of the CORRECT power supply shown below. Which charger you have depends upon which batch of laptops you received, but both versions have a transformer that is labeled with an output value of 19V. The first version has a removable plug at the transformer end that can be rotated if your wall plug or power strip doesn’t like the orientation you are using The second version has a removable cord at one end of the transformer that goes to 110V power.

Laptop power supply.  This unit provides 19V power.

One correct version of the Laptop power supply. This unit provides 19V power, as labeled on the transformer.


A second correct version of the Laptop power supply. This unit provides 19V power, as labeled on the transformer.

As always, the computer will actually tell you if it is charging properly. There is a little red light on the front of the machine that you can see even with the lid closed. Red means it is charging. While running, there is a tool on the task bar that will tell you if you are on battery or wall power.

Jupiter Mutual Event – Io Eclipses Europa – April 27, 2015


As Jupiter shines brightly during its 2014–2015 apparition, quite often Jupiter’s four big Galilean moons will occult and cast their shadows on each other. A “mutual events season” like this happens about every 6 years, when Earth and Sun cross the plane of the satellites’ orbits.  We are now in the later part of this season, with these mutual events, still occurring thru August.  Some of these events will dim the shadow-eclipsed moon, as seen here, or the combined light of two moons during a partial or total occultation.  Photometric recordings of the events provide a very accurate way to refine the satellites’ gradually changing orbits. Their orbits are morphing in interesting long-term ways due to interactions among the satellites and between them and Jupiter.  Occult Watcher can obtain mutual events through the “Planet Satellites (Global)” feed under “Configuration / Prediction Feeds”.

The event illustrated above occurred on April 27 at 2300 hrs, PDT.  The shadow from the Jovian moon Io was cast upon the surface of Europa as viewed from earth.  The accompanying light curve shows the apparent drop in brightness during the eclipsing event.  The total event was approximately 4 minutes in length out of the nearly ten minutes of recording time.

This particular video was further analyzed by Tony George for accurate timing extraction.  Data was then properly format and sent to the IMCCE in Paris for inclusion in this season’s Jovian moons mutual events data set.

A Reminder for RECON Teams: The video recording of these types of events will probably require some Mallincam camera setting changes to properly record a useable video.  Teams are reminded that camera setting should be returned to the proper RECON occultation settings before a RECON campaign event.

Northern Recon Workshop

D7K_7138The Northern Recon Workshop was held in Pasco, Washington April 16-19 and was a great success. John Keller and Marc Buie did a wonderful job of organizing the event and all new northern teams went home with a working knowledge of how to use the equipment to participate in upcoming occultation campaigns.