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


Little Known Facts about RECON Team Sites

While entering RECON site coordinates into my IOTA (Occult4) site database I noticed several little known (to me) facts. I thought I would share these with the rest of the RECON community:

  1.  Chiloquin, OR is the westernmost site at Longitude 121 degrees 52 minutes West
  2.  Kingman/Dolan Springs, AZ is the easternmost site at Longitude 114 degrees 08 minutes West
  3.  Oroville, WA is the northernmost site at Latitude 48 degrees 56 minutes
  4.  Yuma, AZ is the southernmost site at Latitude 32 degrees 42 minutes
  5.  Lee Vining, CA is the highest site at elevation 2060 meters (6759 feet)
  6.  Calipatria, CA is the lowest site at elevation -56 meters (-184 feet)

The RECON team network is a very widely spaced community of observation sites, spanning:

  1. an elevation difference of 2116 meters (6943 feet)
  2. a latitude difference of 16 degrees 14 minutes (or approximately 1118 miles [4/100th the distance around the Earth])
  3. a longitude difference of 7 degrees 44 minutes

Way to go RECON!

Results for (268) Adorea

Snatching a positive from the jaws of a negative.

Many occultation observations never make it to the analysis stage, as it is clear that the observation is either a negative (miss) or impossible to analyze due to outside effects such as clouds or technical problems.  However, when there are difficulties it often pays to perform an analysis anyway, to make sure that something is not present in the video.  The (268) Adorea observation by Chris Patrick is a perfect example.

(268) Adorea was advertized to the IOTA and RECON observers in Arizona, Nevada, and California.  Three observers were able to observe the event and report results.  The path map is shown here:

2016_03_04 268 Adorea

Chris Patrick near Kingman, AZ was the only person to get a positive video observation.  Initially, he was not sure if there was anything on the video, due to the thin clouds that obscured the observation.  Never-the-less, he submitted the video for analysis.

Tony George was able to review the video using both Limovie and R-OTE.  Limovie produced a light curve as shown below:


Patrick Adorea light curve

The blue light curve is the target star.  The yellow light curve is a very nearby, slightly brighter, secondary star.  Thin clouds obscured the occultation, causing both light curves to drop over the course of the observation.  The blue light curve looks like ‘maybe’ there is an occultation, but it is hard to tell.

Because the secondary star was not occulted, it can be used as a ‘reference’ star by which the brightness of the target star an be normalized.  The only variation of the brightness of the secondary star is due to dimming caused by passing clouds.  If this dimming is normalized out of the target star light curve we can see if there was an occultation.

R-OTE was used to normalize the target star light curve.  The resulting light curve is shown here:

Patrick Adorea light curve normalized to secondary

Now, there is a clear occultation event.  Analysis showed the event to be nearly 8.9 seconds long, even longer than the maximum duration predicted for the event.  This event, coupled with the two other chords — one positive and one miss — resulted in an estimate of the size and shape of Adorea as follows:2016Mar4_Adorea_profile

The key to the above result is the hard won observation obtained by Chris Patrick of the RECON team.  Congratulations to Chris for this great observation.

There are many more good events occurring with paths crossing RECON teams in the month of March.  Good luck to all who try these events.

RECON Publication

Our first RECON manuscript has been published in The Astronomical Journal and featured in AAS Nova.

The paper describes the design and development of the RECON Project and will serve as an important technical reference for future results papers.

Thank you again to all of our RECON students, teachers, and community members for your continued contributions to this citizen science research effort!!!



Details for (268) Adorea

Below are details for an optional RECON Main Belt Asteroid this Thursday evening.  Team members in Parker, Havasu, Mohave Valley, Bullhead/Laughlin, Kingman, and Searchlight are well situated for this event.  Feel free to sign up on OccultWatcher and/or let us know if you plan to observe.  Again, this is an optional event, but great practice and a targeted opportunity for the above teams to get a positive occultation measurement and create object profile!

2016_03_04 268 Adorea

Starcharts and Sense-Up

Date: 2016 March 4 UT
Recording Window: 05:27:00 – 05:28:00 UT
RA: 04:41:43 (of date)
DEC: 20:54:20 (of date)
Sense-Up: x4

Below is a starchart for the event:

Star chart for Adorea

Star chart for Adorea