RECON Team Meeting August 3-5

RECON is gearing up for its first annual Team Meeting to be held in Carson City, Nevada, August 3-5. This science team meeting is an opportunity for representatives from all of our community teams to come together to talk about recent science results, upcoming campaigns, and procedural updates on the project.

More information on the RECON Team Meeting Webpage. Team representatives should use the REGISTER NOW link on that page to sign up for the meeting.

Summer RECON Events

As RECON rolls into the summer months, Marc has been busy doing follow-up observations to provide up-to-date predictions for three upcoming summer TNO occultation events. Based upon this recent work, we are currently planning the following official and optional campaigns:

OFFICIAL FULL CAMPAIGN – 08JO41 on June 20 around 08:48 UT

With an estimated size of 50-125 km, Scattered Disc Object 08JO41 is exactly the type of trans-Neptunian Object that the RECON Network was designed to measure. Based upon astrometry collected this past week, the predicted centerline for this event is over southern Oregon with a 1-sigma cross-track uncertainty of 1511 km.

Global prediction map for 08JO41

Global prediction map for 08JO41

Map showing predicted centerline for 08JO41 (with uncertainty of 1511 km)

Map showing predicted centerline for 08JO41 (with uncertainty of 1511 km)

Based upon our uncertainty calculations, there is a 30% chance that the shadow will pass over a portion of the network. And as with all full campaigns, all telescope sites from Yuma to Oroville provide important data to probe the regions around 08JO41 for moons and rings. Thanks to all RECON teams for gearing up for this full campaign event.


With a diameter of around 1110 km, Classical Kuiper Belt Object Quaoar is roughly half the size of Pluto and has a small moon named Weywot.

An artist's conception of Quaoar and its small moon Weywot. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech) - See more at:

An artist’s conception of Quaoar and its small moon Weywot.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)
– See more at:


There are two upcoming close approaches that could bring the shadow path of this large KBO over the RECON network. The first is on June 26 UT and the next is on July 23 UT. If the object does pass over the network, multiple telescope sites would record this occultation. Marc and several other observers are conducting on-going observations to pin down the probabilities of success for RECON on these two dates (which are currently at 3.2% and 1.4%, respectively). However, there is something peculiar about how this recent data is matching up with previously collected orbital data. Given this, we are announcing these events as optional campaigns for the network and encouraging all RECON teams that are available to participate. We will provide weekly updates leading up to these events, so stay tuned.

RECON NW Networking Opportunities

Many RECON teams successfully recorded data from our double campaign earlier this week. Team are currently reporting their observations by submitting event reports and uploading video and logsheet files to SwRI in Boulder.

For our teams in the Northwest, there are four upcoming opportunities to connect and collaborate.  Marc Buie will be hosting three RECON Meet-Ups this weekend:

  • Friday, May 13 in Okanogan
  • Saturday, May 14 in Ellensburg (including public talk on New Horizons)
  • Sunday, May 15 in The Dalles

Any and all community members are encouraged attend any of these opportunities to connect with other RECON teams and talk through questions about the project.

Also, NASA researcher scientist Dr. Bonnie Buratti will be giving a presentation on the Solar System at Ridgeview High School in Oregon on Friday, May 20. This is another opportunity for Oregon RECON teams to connect. Funds provided through Oregon State are available to help reimburse the cost of shuttling students to this event. To learn more email Amanda Schroeder, Feel free to contact Beverly (Schlegel) Vazquez at to ask me any questions you have about this event or if you are interested in hosting a table.



RECON Mother’s Day Doubleheader

Thanks to all the moms who are directly and indirectly supporting our collaborative exploration of the Outer Solar System through the RECON Project!!!

After a four month hiatus, the RECON network is swinging back in action this Sunday night/Monday morning with a doubleheader campaign. The first target of the night will be Classical Kuiper Belt Object 99HR11, which is set to occult a magnitude 14 star between 12:50-1:38AM PDT/MST (7:50-8:38 UT). This Classical KBO has a mostly circular orbit and is over 6 billion km (41 AU) from Earth. The object estimated to be between somewhere between 90-220 km in diameter, but RECON hopes to measure this more precisely.

Just under 45 minutes after this first event, our RECON teams will be moving all of their scopes to the east to acquire the star field for Centaur 02GZ32, which will be occulting a magnitude 13 star between 2:22-2:37AM PDT/MST (9:22-9:37 UT). Follow-up predictions indicate that this target will be passing over the southern portion of the RECON network.

Discovery of ring system around Chariklo during 2013 occultation campaign (Nature 508, 72–75, 03 April 2014, doi:10.1038/nature13155)

Discovery of ring system around Chariklo during 2013 occultation campaign (Nature 508, 72–75, 03 April 2014)

The network is very well positioned to discover whether this Centaur has a ring system. Rings were discovered around a similar-sized Centaur named Chariklo during an occultation campaign back in 2013. Does 02GZ32 also have rings? Does it have any moons? RECON is well positioned to find out!  Even though the central object is predicted to be to the south, the entire network is essential for searching for other material in the vicinity.

For RECON teams, we want to provide the following day-out reminders:

  • Be sure to check the Camera Settings Guide to make sure that you are have the display set to 640×480. For those sites that get a “green screen” after changing this setting, you will have to press the “P” key to view the camera field in Preview Mode – now and for the remainder of the RECON project!
  • Confirm that your IOTA-VTI is set to FULL SCREEN – now and for the remainder of the RECON Project!
  • Complete the Pre-Event Confirmation Forms:
  • Make sure that your laptop and power supply are fully charged and print out the following before the event:
  • Check out updated recommendations for the sequencing of position video, event video, and sky and dark field videos on the Event Pages above. Because Sky Field videos require turning the telescope off, you should save these for after both events. As a quick summary, we recommend:
    • Recording IOTA-VTI Position video
    • Recording 99HR11 Event at 64x
    • Acquiring field for 02GZ32
    • Recording Dark Field video at 64x if there is time before 02GZ32 (save for after 02GZ32 event if there is not time)
    • Recording 02GZ32 Event at 16x (or 32x if conditions are poor)
    • Recording Dark Field video at 16x (or 32x) after 02GZ32
    • Recording Sky Field videos at 64x and 16x (or 32x)
  • In the days following the event, teams should upload their videos and logsheet information using the RECON cwrsync tool.  See Reporting Observations for details.

Sky conditions are looking good for most RECON sites except for a handful north of Reno. Check out RECON Sky Conditions for more details. Good luck to all. And again, Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy May Day!

May Day is a day of celebration situated midway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. This May will also be a busy RECON month!  We wanted to share the following RECON events with our community.

Full campaign night involving two RECON events in early May
Monday, May 9 starting ~12:50AM PDT/MST (2016 May 09 ~07:50 UT)

Mother’s Day is on Sunday, May 8. Later than Sunday night/Monday morning, there are two promising RECON events. The first event, announced to the network back in early April, involves Classical Kuiper Belt Object 99HR11. This is a late event occurring just after midnight on the morning of Monday May 9.

Just last week, we received word from astronomers in South America that another event involving Centaur 02GZ32 has a very high probability of passing directly over the network on the same night. Marc and the RIO group are conducting observations and prediction work this week to pin down uncertainties on the shadow path. Given the possibility of discovering a ring system around this Centaur, we will be asking RECON team members to record this event as well if current predictions hold.

Marc will be visiting teams throughout Washington State the following weekend
Friday, May 13 PDT -Training Meetup in Okanogan
Saturday, May 14 PDT -Training Meetup in Ellensburg
Sunday, May 15 PDT – Training Meetup in The Dalles

Marc will be in Washington State the weekend of May 13-15.  Similar to John’s trip through Oregon back in January, nearby teams are encouraged to join for one of the above mini-meetups as an opportunity to reconnect with other RECON team members and also to talk through any questions about the project.  Times and locations will be provided shortly, along with a sign-up form to RSVP for these meet-ups.

Full Campaign involving Scattered Disc Object 99CY11 in late May
Wednesday, May 25 ~11:22 PDT/MST (2016 May 26 ~06:22 UT)

Toward the end of May, our seventh full RECON campaign involves Scattered Disk Object 99CY118, with an orbit that carries the object over twice as far from the Sun as Pluto! Thanks for completing the Pre-Event Confirmation Form at the link above.

2016 RECON Team Meeting in Carson City Nevada during early August
Wednesday-Friday, August 3-5 PDT

We have funding in our NSF award to host three team meetings between now and Fall 2019. We will be providing funding for 1 representative from each of our 55 communities to attend this meeting. Additional team members are also welcome, and we will have a block of extra hotel rooms at our conference rate. We will be providing a registration form to sign up for this event later this week.

Troubles with failed alignment?

I was practicing for a RECON campaign the other evening.  Everything was up and running and my first alignment of the night was a quick success.  At that point I sent the telescope off to the first RECON field of the night.  After getting there I needed to change the camera setting to a senseup of x128.  When I touched the camera housing I felt the tiniest of a static electricity spark leap from my finger to the camera.  That’s very unusual but it was a really dry day.

Here’s the thing: at the instant I felt the spark the sound of the telescope drive motors changed pitch and volume by a little bit.  Of course, the telescope is tracking and it makes its quiet humming sound as it works.  An abrupt change like that got my spidey-senses tingling but there didn’t seem to be any major problems except I saw the telescope was no longer tracking perfectly.  I was seeing a very slow but inexorable drift of the field on the camera image.  Not good, but I still wasn’t sure there was much of a problem.  But, better safe than sorry.  I decided to redo the pointing.

Well, redoing the pointing wasn’t helping at all.  I tried three times in a row, changing stars each time and by the end I knew that something was very wrong.  I’m at least one of those attempts should have worked.  Rather than try, try again without changing anything, I decided I would start all over again.  That means turning off the power to the telescope and letting it sit a minute.  After I turned it back on I was quickly able to get a good alignment and quickly found the RECON campaign field.  So what happened?

I think the static spark caused the GPS information (time or position) to be corrupted.  My theory is that this information is loaded at the very start and isn’t updated again.  After the spark, either a bad position or time meant the computer was doomed to failure since the stars would never appear to be in the right place.  That would also make tracking and pointing all wrong.  The odd thing is that the telescope, camera, and computer all thought everything was fine.

This experience is worth sharing as an example of one way things can go wrong and how to recover.  The key, as always, is to 1) know your equipment and that means practice, and 2) pay attention to your equipment and what it’s telling you when in use.  I never would have thought a static spark could do this but that myth has now been dispelled.  I wonder how many of you have been inadvertently bitten by this failure mode.  I suspect this will only happen when it is very, very dry out and even then will still be rare.  In my case, the relative humidity was below 10% and I only got that one little spark the entire night.  I sure am glad it wasn’t just before an actual campaign event!

Happy Equinox and Anniversary!

Just wanted to wish everyone in RECON a happy Spring Equinox, which occurs at 9:30PM PDT tonight (20 March @ 4:30 UT)!

We also wanted to take this moment thank the RECON network for a great year.  Our Southern RECON teams met in Kingman, Arizona, one year ago today!

RECON Southern Training Workshop, March 19-22, 2015

RECON Southern Training Workshop, March 19-22, 2015