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.

 

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.

Cloud Forecast for 14UT114

Cloud cover will likely pose challenges for many of our telescope sites during tonight’s event on Sunday morning, December 11 around 08:55 UT. Teams south of Reno and along the Colorado River and around have the best shot at recording this event. To see sky predictions for individual RECON sites, you can visit our Sky Conditions Page.

National Weather Service cloud cover forecast for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

National Weather Service cloud cover forecast for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Despite weather conditions, our telescope teams will keep an eye on their local skies and do their best tonight. Following the campaign event, we ask all teams to complete a RECON Campaign Observation Report Form.  This link will be active for one week following the event.

Final 2016 RECON Event

We wanted to provide a quick update on how things went last week during our Thanksgiving RECON campaign and also provide a heads up on our final event of 2016.

November 23 Event Involving 08FC76

With the exception of Tulelake, California, weather got in the way of observing for all telescope sites from Oroville, Washington down to Carson City, Nevada. Unfortunately, clouds did not part in Central Oregon until after the event. However, clear skies prevailed for our 20 sites from Yerington, Nevada south to Yuma, Arizona. Based upon reports, 15 of these sites successfully acquired the target field and recorded the event, while 5 sites encountered technical issues, primarily involving power and alignment issues. For the next few days, you can view reports from all RECON teams on our Event Reporting Status Page.

Teams that acquired data are currently uploading video data to Southwest Research Institute in Boulder for further analysis this month.

December 11 Involving 14UT114

Our final campaign of 2016 will be Saturday night/Sunday morning, December 10-11. The centerline prediction for Centaur 14UT114 passes over Maupin, Oregon.

Prediction for 14UT114 on 11 December, 2016 UT

Prediction for 14UT114 on 11 December, 2016 UT

With a 1,200-km uncertainty, over 50 RECON telescope sites from Oroville, Washington to Blythe, California are in the 1-sigma shadow zone. All teams are crossing their fingers for clear weather for this occultation opportunity, which currently has a 37% probability of detection by the network. All RECON teams are asked to submit the RECON Campaign Signup Form by this weekend. Submitted reports can be viewed on our Signup Status Page.

 

Over 50 RECON teams are prepared to pursue an exciting observation campaign tonight, which occurs on Wednesday morning just before 4AM PST / 5AM MST.  The forecast map shown below predicts great sky conditions for all RECON teams south of Portola, California, and a promising belt of partly clear conditions throughout Central Oregon from Tulelake up to The Dalles.

Sky forecast map at event time on 23 November at 12:00UT (http://www.cleardarksky.com/)

Sky forecast map at event time on 23 November at 12:00UT (http://www.cleardarksky.com/)

To see sky predictions for individual RECON sites, you can visit our Sky Conditions Page.

Good luck to all of our teams as they do their best to record the star field for this high probability campaign event!  The 1-sigma uncertainty for the shadow prediction indicates that telescopes sites from Madras, Oregon all the way to Idyllwild, California all have have high odds of recording Centaur 08FC76 as it occults our target star.

Rain, snow, or clear skies . . . we ask all RECON teams to complete a RECON Campaign Observation Report Form.  This link will be active for one week following the event.

RECON 2016 Fall Campaigns

RECON is gearing up for an event during Thanksgiving Week involving Centaur 08FC76 on Wednesday morning, November 23. The prediction for this event places the centerline directly through the middle of our network, with over 40 RECON sites within the 1-sigma shadow zone.

Prediction map for 08FC76

Prediction map for 08FC76

What could be better than the above event, which has a 67% probability of resulting in publishable measurement of this outer Solar System object?  A second event with equally good probability for success!  On Saturday night, December 10 (December 11 UT), RECON will be pursuing our third campaign event this autumn involving Centaur 14UT114, with a shadow path passing over Central Oregon. For this December event, EVERY RECON SITE will is within the 1-sigma uncertainty zone, resulting in an 80% probability for success!

Prediction for 14UT114 on 11 December, 2016 UT

Prediction for 14UT114 on 11 December, 2016 UT

RECON is very well positioned to obtain results for two scientific papers from the above events. All observers participating in any of the above events will have the opportunity to also participate as a co-author.

Here’s to clear skies across the Western US on the morning of November 23 and the evening of December 10!

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!

 

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

 

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.