You Too Can See Pluto !

With the historic success of New Horizons, the publics interest in Pluto is at an all time high.  Many in the RECON communities have been interested in using their RECON telescope and camera systems to view Pluto.  From my location in Gardnerville Nevada, Pluto has recently been viewable in the low southern skies.  The best times for observing have been around midnight as Pluto rises to it’s highest elevation of around 25 degrees.  At magnitude 14.1 Pluto was easily discernible in the crowded star field of Serpens, if you knew where to look.  You will need an accurate star chart of the star field from the internet or from a planetarium program like GUIDE from the Pluto Project, or similar program.  The annotated image below is a clipped frame from an observation I made on July 16th at just before midnight PDT.  The skies were exceptionally clear and the seeing was very good.  Pluto has now transitioned into Sagittarius and as of July 20th will be just to the NE of mag 3.5, Xi2 Sgr, (TYC 6294 2507 / SAO 187504) at around midnight PDT.  Although Clyde Tombaugh didn’t know where to look for this far off world, you can see Pluto with the help of modern technology.  See if you can find it !!
Pluto1_20150717_PSE_Annot2

RECON Teams Join in Weywot Campaign

On the evening of Tuesday, July 14, just a half day after the New Horizons spacecraft successfully flew by Pluto, seven RECON teams participated in an optional RECON campaign involving Weywot, a moon of classical Kuiper Belt Object Quaoar.  RECON teams from Ellensburg, The Dalles, Carson City, Gardnerville, Boulder City, Lake Havasu, and Yuma joined six other teams affiliated with the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) in this predicted occultation event.

Team members in Yuma were joined by reporter Amanda Solliday during this event. Her story on the RECON Project was aired today on KAWC – Colorado River Public Media and will be featured across the state of Arizona on KJZZ on Monday, July 20.

Home Run for New Horizons!

During its flyby through the Pluto system this past Tuesday morning, the New Horizons spacecraft gathered a tremendous dataset of that will transform our understanding of this largest known Kuiper Belt Object.  More images and science results will be released in a media briefing at 1 p.m. EDT this Friday, July 17. It will take 16 months to download all of the data that was collected this past week, so it should be an exciting year as more and more of this amazing planetary system is revealed.

Image of Pluto taken July 13, one day before encounter.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Icy Mountains on Pluto

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Mountain in a Moat on the Youthful Surface of Charon

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

 

 

Closing in On Pluto

Stay tuned as the New Horizons Spacecraft closes in on Pluto!  Below is an image of Pluto taken by New Horizons on July 11. For more images and up-to-date information, visit http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/. This is an extremely exciting moment for New Horizons team members, including RECON PI Marc Buie who is currently at the spacecraft control center at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

During the flyby, New Horizons will be out of radio contact with Earth as it executes the carefully choreographed sequence of commands between July 14 03:17 UT and July 15 00:53UT. For those on the West Coast, that’s from 8:17PM PDT on Monday (7/13) to 5:53PM PDT on Tuesday (7/14).

Coincidentally, an occultation by classical KBO Quaoar and its moon Weywot is predicted for July 15 at 05:03 UT, just four hours after the anticipated link up with New Horizons after the flyby. Tuesday is looking to be a banner day for the Kuiper Belt!

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!!!