RECON Campaign involving Chiron!

Happy Fourth of July, RECON!!!

We wanted to provide a heads up about an exciting opportunity to measure Chiron, a 100-km Centaur with suspected ring structure(s)!  We will have an event page up shortly, but the map below provided by LESIA at L’Observatoire de Paris shows that the probabilities of successfully recording this object are high and that the extended RECON network down to Arizona is well positioned to map any extended structures associated with the main body!

Prediction map for occultation by Centaur Chiron on 2017 August 15 UT

The event will occur early on the morning of Tuesday, August 15 around 11:51 UT (4:51AM PDT/MST). Twilight will be approaching during the occultation, but there should be plenty of time to get onto the field prior to this. Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for details!

Observers Track New Horizons’ Next Target – Sky & Telescope

Sky & Telescope just published a nice article about last week’s Southern Hemisphere occultation involving 2014 MU69:

Observers Track New Horizons’ Next Target – Sky & Telescope

All teams on the campaign collected useable data which is currently being analyzed. A photo of RECON Team Member Robert Reaves from Parker, Arizona is included in the article.

RECON Team Member Robert Reaves participating in MU69 campaign in Argentina

RECON Contributes to Southern Hemisphere Campaign

This is an exciting week for RECON Principal Investigator Marc Buie as well as RECON team member Robert Reaves from Parker, Arizona.  Marc is leading a dual continent occultation campaign involving 22 telescopes being deployed in Argentina and South Africa to measure the shadow of 2014 MU69, the next target for the NASA New Horizons mission.  This Friday evening (2017 June 3 at 03:11:50 UT) 22 teams will be deployed on both continents for the first of three occultation opportunities this summer.

Marc invited RECON team member Robert Reaves to join one of these teams for this week’s event.  Both Marc and Robert are currently in South America prepping for the big event. For the next occultation opportunity in early July, Charlene Weisenborn from our Searchlight / Boulder City team will be participating as well.

Marc has been centrally in charge of working on predictions for these campaigns using Hubble and Gaia data.  In addition to observing form Argentina this week, he will also be flying aboard NASA SOFIA during the July event. According to Marc, our experience setting up the RECON network of over 50 telescope sites has been very valuable in prepping for these campaigns. Because 2014 MU69 is only thought to be around 30 km, the spacing of the network will be much tighter than RECON, with telescopes spaced roughly every 10 km rather than 50 km.

For more information, you can check out the New Horizon’s Webpage and the following post:  New Horizons Deploys Global Team for Rare Look at Next Flyby Target

Over the next six weeks, the New Horizons mission team gets an “MU69” preview of sorts – and a chance to gather some critical encounter-planning information – with a rare look at their target object from Earth.

Good luck, Marc, Robert, and all involved in Friday’s campaign!

Not the best night for occultation astronomy!

Our RECON event this Friday evening involving Centaur 07RG283 is going to be challenging to begin with, given that that target star (UC4-683-022040 in Perseus) is a very dim object at magnitude 16.3.  While still within reach of our telescope-camera system, clear skies will be required.

Unfortunately, as the Clear Sky Clock sky forecast map below shows, clear skies this Friday evening will be hard to come by!  In a rare reversal, sky conditions in Washington could be marginally better than the rest of the network, although even here things will be dicey.  Such are the challenges of ground-based astronomy research.  While we anticipate most sites will be clouded out, we appreciated all teams completing the RECON Campaign Observation Report Form, which will be available for one week following the event time.

Sky forecast map at event time for 07RG283 event.


What’s in a name?

Our next RECON event this coming Monday evening involves Centaur 12CG!  A challenging component of this event is that the target will be rising low in the eastern sky. Note that this won’t give our teams a ton of time to lock on the star field.

We wanted to take this opportunity to talk for a second about the naming convention for TNOs and other minor planets.  For all of our previous events, you may have noticed that objects had names like 14UT114 and 08FC76, while our event this week does not have a number at the end. Let’s break this down.

The name 12CG indicates that this object was the seventh minor planet discovered in the two week period between February 1 – February 15, 2012.  The first two digits (12) represent the year of discovery and the first letter (C) indicates the half-month of discovery. The letter A is for objects discovered between January 1-15, B is for January 16-31, and C for February 1-15. Note that the letter “I” is skipped, resulting in Y representing the 24th half-month of December 16-31. The second character (G) is the order of discover, with A being the first object in that period and G being the seventh. Here again, the letter “I” is not used, so this naming convention can be used for the first 25 objects discovered in a given half-month.

So why do most TNOs end with a number while 12CG does not? After the 25 object discovered in a half month,a number is indexed at the end of the name and second alpha character cycles back through the alphabet. Thus, while the 25th discovered object between February 1 – February 15 would be 12CZ, the 26th object would be named 12CA1, and the 27th would be 12CB1.

Ready to quiz yourself? Try 14UT114:

  • 14U = Object was discovered between October 16-31, 2014
  • T114 = We’ve cycled 114 times through the 25 letters of the alphabet (minus the letter “I”), or 114 x 25 = 2,850 times. The letter T indicates it is the 19th object after these 2,850 prior objects. So the object is the 2,869th discovery of this half-month.

How about 08FC76? . . . yup, the 1,903rd minor discovered between March 16-31, 2008. For more information and clarification, check out the following Wikipage on provisional designation in astronomy.

Good luck to all of our teams this Monday evening!!!

Happy Winter Solstice, 2016!

On this Winter Solstice, the RECON Team wanted to wish all a happy holiday season!!!

RECON Team Meeting in Carson City, August 2016

RECON Team Meeting in Carson City, August 2016

We are extremely grateful to all of our RECON students, teachers, amateur astronomers and community members who have contributed to this year’s activities.  Below is a quick RECON Year in Review!

All together, we attempted 8 full network campaigns, set up essential data infrastructure for RECON campaigns, and published 2 manuscripts in The Astronomical Journal. With most video files now uploaded into the RECON database, we are currently busy analyzing video from the above events as we prepare for our upcoming January 2017 campaigns.

In addition to our team meeting in Nevada, John had the pleasure of visiting sites in Oregon, Northern California, Owens Valley, and along the Colorado River while Marc visited sites in both Washington and Arizona. We also has a new team join from Wildwood School in Los Angeles. Throughout all of our interactions, we continue to be impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of our RECON communities!

Wishing you the warmest of holidays!!!

John, Marc, Ilianna, Diana, Matthew, Audrey, and Jeralyn


RECON Opportunities in January 2017

Most of the RECON network was clouded, rained, or snowed out during our last event on December 11, 2016. A handful of sites in Southern Oregon/Northern California and Southern California/Arizona were able to record the star field and are uploading their video data for analysis, but the campaign was definitely limited by poor sky conditions for this final campaign of the 2016 calendar year.

Given the challenges that the network has had with clouds and such, we wanted to announce two promising optional campaigns in early January, which are also great practice opportunities to prepare for our next official campaign later next month.

Next Full Campaign on 23 January around 05:51 UT

Looking forward to 2017, our next full network campaign will be Monday evening, January 23 around 9:51PM PST / 10:51PM MST. With a 1-sigma uncertainty of just over 1,100 km, this campaign involving Centaur (471512) 12CG is our highest probability TNO opportunity for the month of January at 36%. We will be creating an event page shortly, and the sign-up form for this official campaign will go live on December 23.

Large Classical KBO on 2 January around 07:59 UT (OPTIONAL)

Prediction for Classical KBO Sila-Nunam on 2017 January 2 UT

Prediction for Classical KBO Sila-Nunam on 2017 January 2 UT

Estimated as somewhere between 220-550 km in diameter, the shadow path of large Classical KBO (79360) Sila-Nunam is predicted to pass over the RECON network, with a 1-sigma uncertainty of just over 2,000 km. If the shadow does pass over RECON, we will definitely detect it even if not all telescope sites are able to observe the event occurring roughly 24 hours into the New Year. We strongly encourage any and all teams that are up for this event to give it a go, especially if weather forecasts look good. However, we didn’t want to push the network too hard after our Thanksgiving campaign event, so this will be an optional event. You will be able to sign up for this optional RECON event starting next week.

Regional Multi-Chord Observation on 7 January around 06:45 UT (OPTIONAL)

Prediction for Main Belt Asteroid (362) Havnia on 2017 January 7 UT

Prediction for Main Belt Asteroid (362) Havnia on 2017 January 7 UT

Equally exciting is a unique multi-chord opportunity involving Main Belt Asteroid (362) Havnia on Friday evening, January 6, around 10:45PM PST / 11:45PM MST. As shown on the IOTA prediction map to the left, the slow-moving shadow will travel from south to north. Depending upon how far west or east the shadow lands, all RECON sites in Arizona, California, Nevada, and possibly Oregon can help contribute to this multi-chord observation opportunity. Because the event will not involve telescope sites in Washington, we are announcing this as an optional regional campaign. Many IOTA members are planning to observe, and you are strongly encouraged to contribute this research effort and gain more practice time. You can sign up for this event using OccultWatcher, and a RECON sign-up form will also be available next week.