Switching Back to Standard Time

Just a quick reminder that all of our RECON teams outside of Arizona will be going off Daylight Savings this Sunday morning, November 6, at 2AM local time. In addition to giving participants an extra hour of sleep, turning clocks back will place the majority of our teams 8 hours behind Universal Time (UT) from now through March.

RECON teams should take care in converting UT times to local times:

  • Our Arizona teams remain on Mountain Standard Time = 7 hours behind UT
  • All other teams fall back onto Pacific Standard Time = 8 hours behind UT

All times listed on the Event Detail Page for 08FC76 are provided in UT and need to be adjusted for the correct time zone for each site. The event will be centered around 11:55 UT on November 23, 2016. Using the offsets above, this converts to:

  • 4:55 AM MST on the morning of November 23
  • 3:55 AM PST on the morning of November 23

All RECON Teams are reminded to complete the RECON Campaign Signup Form as soon as possible so that we can ensure telescope coverage for this Thanksgiving campaign!

 

Best TNO Opportunity Yet!

During the week of Thanksgiving, the RECON community is looking forward to the best TNO occultation opportunity since the start of our full network last year!  On Wednesday morning, November 23, around 3:55AM Pacific (4:55AM Mountain), Centaur 08FC76 will be occulting 14.6 magnitude star UC4-565-008609 in the constellation Taurus.

Prediction map for 08FC76

Prediction map for 08FC76

This event is EXACTLY the type of campaign that RECON was designed to pursue.  As shown on the map here, the predicted centerline for the occultation shadow passes directly through the center of our network! Recently kicked into an orbit neighboring Saturn, Centaur 08FC76 will be only 9.6 AU from Earth. Based on how well we know the orbit for this object, the 1-sigma cross-track uncertainty in the shadow path prediction is only 595 km. Importantly, this places every RECON telescope site from Madras, Oregon to Idyllwild, California within this zone of high probability for detection. That’s 43 of our 60 communities!!! Based upon our calculations, there is at least a 67% probability that RECON will capture this event, more than double any of our previous events.

And, as with all RECON events, each telescope site is crucial for mapping out the region of space around this TNO. Does this Centaur have a smaller moon . . . or moons?  Does it have rings? How big is it actually? How bright is it? What is its shape? We plan to address all of these questions and more through data collected during this upcoming holiday campaign!

Marc has also taken the extra step of incorporating recent data from the Gaia Mission in to the prediction above. With the additional precision provided on the position of the target star, the prediction path has remained in the center of the network. This makes for an even stronger prediction that the shadow of this Centaur will passing over our network on the morning of November 23. This is the highest probability event we have had since the start of the project!

For more information on this event, visit the Event Page and Event Detail Page for 08FC76. RECON Teams are asked to sign up for the event using the RECON Campaign Signup Form. We are extremely thankful to all of our RECON team members for supporting this upcoming campaign and for all of the preparation and dedication that has gotten us to this point.

Clear skies … south of Kingman

During our event last weekend, cloudy skies and rain impacted most all of our Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada sites.  The clouds parted south of Kingman and at least five communities along the Colorado River collected data along with pockets in Lee Vining, Searchlight, and elsewhere.  We will be analyzing these video files in the coming week.  For a snapshot of how things went for each of our telescope sites, you can check out an Event Summary for 12UT68.

Teams that have not yet submitted a RECON Campaign Observation Report Form for the event have until this Sunday evening (one week following the event) to complete this dataset. Also, stay tuned for our next event on the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving. This is going to be our best TNO occultation opportunity since the start of the RECON Project!

Ready despite the clouds!

It’s been four months since our last campaign, but RECON is prepped and ready for our first full network campaign of the 2016-17 school year!

12UT68 Prediction Map

Predicted shadow centerline for 12UT68

Tonight’s event involves Centaur 12UT68. Formed out beyond Neptune, this object was recently kicked inward to the solar neighborhood near Saturn and Neptune. Estimates place its size at 30-75 km, but RECON is trying to determine this with far greater precision. Although the predicted shadow path is slightly off the network, the 1-sigma uncertainty in this prediction is 600 km. This means there is a good chance the shadow may pass over communities to the south, and all of our scopes are well positioned to probe the region around 12UT68.

As with all ground-based astronomy, weather and sky conditions are always an important factor. As of this morning, the weather is not looking great for many of our teams in the Northwest and spotty for several Northern California and Nevada teams. The sky cover prediction map below was produced using tools available at www.cleardarksky.com.

Cloud cover prediction for 12UT68 event (Copyright 2016 A.Danko)

Cloud cover prediction for 12UT68 event (Copyright 2016 A.Danko)

For our teams with partly cloudy skies, they will be aligning their telescopes and finding the star field using patches of clear sky. Then it will be a matter of waiting it out to see if the target region of northeastern sky stays clear during the 20-minute observing window just after 11:10PM PDT/MST tonight. And hopefully the prediction for better weather will hold for our teams in southern California and along the Colorado River closest to the shadow centerline prediction!

For more details on this event, visit our Event Page for 12UT68. Good luck to all of our teams able to observe tonight despite less than ideal weather! Also, stay tuned for our next event on the morning of Wednesday, November 23, with a predicted shadow passing directly through the center of the RECON network!!!

Details on Main Belt Asteroid Patientia

Below are details for an optional main belt asteroid campaign for RECON teams from Lake Havasu to Yuma.  For more details, refer to Occult Watcher and following link:
http://www.asteroidoccultation.com/2016_10/1005_451_37098.htm

Date: 05 October 2016 UT
Recording Window: 06:06:00 – 06:09:00
Sense-up: x2

Star training set for 451 Patientia, (2016/10/05 06:08UT)
Object RA Dec mag sep mel
Fomalhaut 22:58:34.4 -29:31:59 1.2 3.75 96
PPM 274650 23:10:38.8 -27:59:51 5.9 0.76 100
PPM 274716 23:14:12.4 -28:19:26 8.3 0.39 100
451 Patientia 23:14:04.0 -27:56:21 9.2 100
Positions are for equinox of date

Starchart:

Starchart for Patientia provided by Steve Preston

Starchart for Patientia provided by Steve Preston

Starfield:

Starfield for Patientia provided by John Keller at 128x

Starfield for Patientia provided by John Keller at 128x

For any of you needing the J2000 coordinates, here is your list:

J2000 Star training set for 451 Patientia
Object RA Dec mag sep mel
Fomalhaut 22:57:39.5 -29:37:23 1.2 3.75 96
PPM 274650 23:09:44.7 -28:05:19 5.9 0.76 100
PPM 274716 23:13:18.5 -28:24:55 8.3 0.39 100
451 Patientia 23:13:10.1 -28:01:50 9.2 100
Positions are for J2000

 

Gaia Billion-Star 3D Map of Galaxy

This past week, the European Space Agency released its first dataset produced by the Gaia Mission, a spacecraft in orbit around the Earth-Sun second Lagrange point (L2). This dataset provides precise position and brightness information for over 1.1 billion stars in the Milky Way and satellite galaxies, along with distances and proper motions for 2 million of these. With still more data to come, Gaia provides the most comprehensive 3-dimensional map of the stars in our galaxy.

First release of Gaia dataset (ESA)

First release of Gaia dataset (ESA)

The release of this dataset is extremely significant to RECON, as it essentially eliminates previous uncertainties in the positional information of occultation target stars. This will allow us to make more precise predictions of occultation paths for trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs). Uncertainties remain in our measurements of TNO positions, but Gaia provides a significant improvement to our occultation prediction efforts.

RECON Team Meeting Rocked!

Thanks to the 70 team representatives – included 10 students – who joined us in Carson City back in August for our first annual RECON Team Meeting! The meeting was a very productive opportunity to reconnect, review recent publications, and prepare for future research campaigns. For copies of presentations and materials, visit our Presentations and Educational Resources Page. Below is a group photo from the event:

RECON Team Meeting, Carson City, 2016

RECON Team Meeting, Carson City, 2016

We  also discussed plans for our next team meeting, which will likely be held mid- to late-October 2017 up in the Pacific Northwest!

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.

OPTIONAL CAMPAIGNS INVOLVING QUAOAR

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: http://www.space.com/25817-quaoar.html#sthash.DYFAwmeA.dpuf

An artist’s conception of Quaoar and its small moon Weywot.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)
– See more at: http://www.space.com/25817-quaoar.html#sthash.DYFAwmeA.dpuf

 

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.