RECON Expands to 60 Communities Across Western US!!!

Planetary Scientists Marc Buie and John Keller are excited to announce the expansion of RECON — the Research and Education Collaborative Occultation Network — across the entire western United States! The full network will involve at least 55 telescope sites operated by teachers, students, and volunteers from 60 communities located in the rain shadow of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges and along the Colorado River.

Over the next five years, the communities shown on the map below will be involved in this cutting-edge, NSF-funded citizen science astronomy research endeavor to measure and characterize Kuiper Belt Objects located in the outer Solar System. Project Leads Buie and Keller are honored to have visited all of the sites shown on the map during recruitment of the pilot network in fall 2012 and the expanded network in fall 2014.

With this expansion, the project will engage over 60 high schools, 12 colleges and community colleges, 7 astronomy clubs, and 2 astronomy education centers. NSF funding for RECON will be used to provide camera systems to all 54 sites and 46 CPC-1100 telescopes to the communities shown on the map in green. To sites shown in blue, an additional 8 telescopes are being provided by the following RECON collaborators:

Telescopes and cameras will be delivered to new RECON communities over the next month. During the spring, representatives from each community will receive training at workshops held in Kingman, Arizona, and Pasco, Washington. By early May, the network will be fully prepared to conduct up to eight coordinated observation campaigns of Kuiper Belt Objects each year through 2019.

Buie and Keller are also grateful for volunteer collaborators such as Jerry Bardecker from Gardnerville and others associated with the International Occultation Time Association (IOTA) who are providing significant contributions to the project and joining in RECON occultation campaign events to create an even stronger network (current sites shown in purple on map). Individuals interested in learning more about opportunities to participate are encouraged to complete a RECON Individual Interest Form.

Welcome to all of our new RECON students, teachers, and community members!!!


RECON Sites Record Our First KBO!

RECON is pleased to announce several positive detections of Kuiper Belt Object 2007 UK126 during last month’s occultation campaign on 15 November, 2014. Wet, cloudy weather challenged teams in the northern part of the pilot network, but skies were generally clear from Reno southward. Visit the Event Report Page for accounts provided by our team members.

We are currently analyzing data from all sites, but it is clear that at least two RECON sites and one additional IOTA member detected the occultation. This event will likely lead to our first RECON publication and will be done in collaboration with the RIO group. Stay tuned for more updates!

This represents a significant accomplishment for the pilot RECON network, given that the event involved a faint star (mag 15.8) in a moonlit sky (42% illumination at separation of 85 degrees). It also is a great indication of things to come as we expand the network to over four times its current size in the coming year.

Great job, pilot RECON teams!!!

RECON Ready for 2007 UK126!

The pilot RECON network is set for our second occultation event involving a Kuiper Belt Object, 2007 UK126.  The maps below shows sites that have signed up on Occult Watcher to participate in tonight’s event, including 13 RECON sites and roughly a dozen additional IOTA observers across the nation.

Map shows telescope sites signed up on Occult Watcher to observe 2007 UK126

Map shows telescope sites signed up on Occult Watcher to observe 2007 UK126

The pilot RECON network involves telescopes stretching from Tulelake, California to Tonpah, Nevada.

Pilot RECON network from Tulelake to Tonopah

Pilot RECON network from Tulelake to Tonopah

By May, 2015, RECON will extend down to the US border with Mexico and up to the Canadian border, making the full network a powerful array for observing future KBO occultations. Amateur astronomers from across North America will be invited to join in these campaign events.

Current weather conditions may challenge several RECON sites tonight, especially in the northern part of the network, but our team members are all geared up and ready to get whatever data they can during tonight’s event window from 2:10-2:30AM!




Prepping for KBO Event

Community teams in the pilot RECON network are preparing for our first KBO occultation event since Pluto.  Early Saturday morning, November 15, from 2:10-2:30AM Pacific Time, our community teams will be out watching for 2007 UK126 to occult the star shown below.  The image was taken by Bill Gimple in Greenville, California in preparation for the Saturday morning event.

Image of star field for 2007 UK126 taken by Bill Gimple in Greenville

Image of star field for 2007 UK126 taken by Bill Gimple in Greenville


Community Team Interest Form

Interested communities located in the vicinity the proposed RECON network path (shown on the map below) are asked to complete a COMMUNITY TEAM INTEREST FORM. We will use the information provided on this form in our efforts to involve as many communities as possible to maximize both the educational and scientific impacts of this project. For all communities north of Lake Havasu, Arizona, we ask that the community interest form be completed by Wednesday, November 12.

View Proposed RECON Expansion in a larger map

RECON Roadtrip #1: Beatty to Havasu!

In September, the National Science Foundation awarded a five-year grant to extend the RECON citizen science astronomy network across the entire western United States! During the months of October and November, RECON project leaders Marc Buie and John Keller will be traveling on four week-long road trips to visit over 30 targeted communities north and south of the pilot RECON network.

Our first trip was the week of October 6-10.  Over the course of the week, we met with over 20 teachers and administrators from twelve schools and community college campuses in Nevada, Arizona, and California:

At Beatty High School, Boulder City High School, and Needles High School, we also had the privilege of presenting the project to a total of approximately 100 students. Throughout our visits and presentations, we were most impressed by the enthusiasm for the project expressed by the teachers, administrators, and students we met.

We also had the pleasure of presenting to roughly 30 amateur astronomers during three local astronomy club meetings:

Below are some quick snapshots from this first of four recruitment trips.  Stay tuned for updates from our second road trip through Central Washington October 20-24!

Hoover Dam from the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Hoover Dam from the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Along Route 66 in Kingman

Along Route 66 in Kingman


Double rainbow during return from Bullhead City to Kingman

Needles Bridge

Old Trails Bridge outside of Needles, California

Southwest over Searchlight

Looking back over Searchlight, Nevada and Dolan Springs, Arizona during flight home

NSF Funds Expansion of Full Telescope Network!

The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year grant to expand RECON to include over 40 telescope sites stretching across the entire western United States. Watch a three-minute Science360 video produced earlier this year to learn more about the RECON project.

As part of recruitment efforts during Fall 2014, project leaders Marc Buie and John Keller will visit teachers and community members in and around the cities and towns highlighted in blue on the interactive map below.

View RECON – Research and Education Cooperative Occultation Network in a larger map

Note that the 14 communities highlighted in green and yellow have been actively participating in the pilot RECON network since Spring 2013.

After new RECON teams have been selected, telescope and camera equipment will be shipped to community. During Spring 2015, representatives from new and veteran RECON teams will participate in training workshops — one in a location south of Las Vegas and the second in the Tri-Cities region of Washington.

By April 2015, the full RECON network of over 40 communities will be operational, and the project will begin to carry out network campaigns to measure occultations of Kuiper Belt Objects and other trans-Neptunian Objects.

If you are interested in learning more about the RECON Project and ways you can participate, please complete our RECON Interest Survey. Alternatively, if you know of any community members in or around our target communities, feel free to help us get in touch by completing the RECON Referral Survey.


(10) Hygiea Occults 4UC 574-027283 – August 29, 2014

I know a few others in the RECON community were planning to attempt this event. A major obstacle for many, was the very low elevation of 14 deg. in the east.  The fact that the event occurred at around 3 a.m., probably discouraged a few other potential observers. For me, those challenges, and a few more, were also very real. An interesting aspect of this event as noted on Steve Preston’s info page, was that the target star was one component of a relatively close double star (5 arc seconds separation, 12.6 and 13.8 mag). This factor was really only significant when attempting to analyze the event with LiMovie and subsequently by Occular and/or R-OTE for timing calculations. As you can see from the light curve, the event was indicated by a very low magnitude drop. The predicted mag drop was 0.5, but this was calculated for only the one component of the double system that was occulted. At the focal length used to make the recording the three components (asteroid and two stars that make up the double) cannot be separated in the aperture ring of LiMovie. Because of the additional star the resulting mag drop was somewhat lower than that predicted. A real added treat would have been if the position angle (PA) of the double system would have been such that both stars would have been occulted by Hygiea. In this case though, Hygiea passed just to the celestial north of the doubles second component. The light curve below represents my estimates of the occultation timings and is not the final IOTA official data.