Monday, July 13, 2015

New Horizons’ Pluto flyby on 14 July

After a 9½ years journey, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will visit tomorrow 14 July 2015 the dwarf planet Pluto. This will be the first ever flyby of Pluto and its largest moon Charon.

During the fly-by (a 24-hour event), New Horizons will collect photographs and scientific data on Pluto’s surface, atmosphere and environment. New Horizons is intended to pass within 12,500 km (7,800 miles) of Pluto, with this closest approach date estimated to occur on July 14, 2015 at 11:50 UTC. New Horizons will have a relative velocity of 13.78 km/s (49,600 km/h; 30,800 mph) at its closest approach, and will come as close as 28,800 km (17,900 miles) to Charon.

The spacecraft will not go into orbit around Pluto because, as explained on New Horizons website, "to get to Pluto (which is 5 billion kilometers from Earth) in just 9.5 years the spacecraft travelled very, very quickly. As a result, New Horizons will speed by Pluto at a velocity of about 43,000 kilometers per hour(27,000 miles per hour). To get into orbit, operators would have to reduce that speed by over 90%, which would require more than 1,000 times the fuel that New Horizons can carry. The second reason is scientific: If we did stop to go into orbit, we wouldn't be able to go on to explore the Kuiper Belt!"

Click on the images below to see a graphical guide to the historic mission made by Nature magazine.


Below you can find a selection of the best images of Pluto & Charon taken by New Horizons during the weeks preceding the 14 July fly-by (click on each image for a bigger version).

Pluto and Charon rotation sequence. The images were taken May 28-June 3, 2015. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Pluto as seen from New Horizons on July 07, 2015. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Pluto and Charon as seen from New Horizons on July 08, 2015. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI
 

Pluto as seen from New Horizons on July 11, 2015. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Charon as seen from New Horizons on July 11, 2015. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Below the fly-by animation (made by Björn Jónsson using New Horizons' data) showing the fly-by trajectory from 09:36UT to 13:36UT. Closest approach 11:50UT (Charon not included in the animation).


This blog will be updated as soon as new images and news will arrive so stay tuned!


UPDATE - July 14, 2015 @10:00UT

Less than 2 hours left to the Pluto flyby by New Horizons spacecraft. Google is celebrating today historic Pluto flyby with its own Google Doodle. (click on the image below for a bigger version).


Below you can see the last and most detailed image of Pluto sent to Earth before the moment of closest approach! "This stunning image of the dwarf planet was captured from New Horizons at about 4 p.m. EDT on July 13, about 16 hours before the moment of closest approach."



UPDATE - July 15, 2015 @20:00UT

Below you can see the amazing first close-up photographs of Pluto and its largest moon Charon + an image of smaller moon Hydra sent back to the Earth by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft a day after its successful flyby (click on each image for a bigger version).


New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise -- a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body. Credits: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI

Remarkable new details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon are revealed in this image. Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

New Horizons measured the size of Hydra, one of Pluto’s small moons, which is 43km wide and 33km tall. The moon is so reflective that it is likely composed of water ice. Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRIAggiungi didascalia

The latest spectra from New Horizons Ralph instrument reveal an abundance of methane ice, but with striking differences from place to place across the frozen surface of Pluto. Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

By Ernesto Guido

Monday, June 1, 2015

Amor Asteroid (2015 KQ154)

The MPEC 2015-K126 issued on May 28, 2015 announced the discovery of a new Amor-type asteroid officially designated 2015 KQ154. This asteroid (~ magnitude 16) was discovered by C. Jacques, E. Pimentel & J. Barros through a 0.28-m f/2.2 astrograph + CCD telescope of SONEAR Observatory (MPC code Y00), on images obtained on May 25.1, 2015. 

According to the preliminay orbit, 2015 KQ154 is an Amor type asteroid. Amor asteroids are a group of Near-Earth objects with orbits similar to that of 1221 Amor (1.017 AU < q < 1.3 AU). They approach the orbit of Earth from beyond, but do not cross it. Most Amors do cross the orbit of Mars. Click on the image below to see the orbit types of the different groups of Near-Earth asteroids.


We performed some follow-up measurements of this object on 2015, May 28.4, remotely from the U69 MPC code (iTelescope network - Auberry California) through a 0.61-m f/6.5 astrograph + CCD. Below you can see an animation showing the fast movement of 2015 KQ154 on the the sky on May 28, 2015 (it was moving at 8.35 "/min). Each frame is a single 10-second exposure. Click on the thumbnail below to see the animation (East is up, North is to the right):


Animation of Asteroid 2015 KQ154 - 28 May 2015 photo 2015_KQ154_28_May_2015_U69_crop_zpsnwd0ey9t.gif

Congrats to SONEAR team for the discovery of 2015 KQ154, that is the thirteenth Near Earth Object discovered by their survey.

by Ernesto Guido & Nick Howes

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Comet: C/2015 K4 (PANSTARRS)

CBET nr. 4108, issued on 2015, May 27, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~18) by PANSTARRS survey in three w-band exposures taken with the 1.8-m Pan-STARRS1 telescope at Haleakala on May 24.5 UT. The new comet has been designated C/2015 K4 (PANSTARRS).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 20 unfiltered exposures, 30-sec each, obtained remotely on 2015, May 26.3 from U69 (iTelescope network - Auberry California) through a 0.61-m f/6.5 astrograph + CCD, shows that this object is a comet with a ill-defined central condensation surrounded by diffuse irregular coma about 6" in diameter

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)


M.P.E.C. 2015-K114 assigns the following preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2015 K4: T 2015 May 1.79365; e= 1.0; Peri. = 357.56; q = 2.01;  Incl.= 80.25

by Ernesto Guido & Nick Howes

Friday, April 10, 2015

New Comet: C/2015 G2 (MASTER)

CBET nr. 4092, issued on 2015, April 10, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~11) on R-band images taken by P. Balanutsa et al. with the MASTER (Mobile Astronomical System of the Telescope-Robots) 0.4-m f/2.5 reflector at the South African Astronomical Observatory.  The new comet has been designated C/2015 G2 (MASTER).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 10 unfiltered exposures, 30-sec each, obtained remotely on 2015, April 08.8 from Q62 (iTelescope network - Siding Spring) through a 0.50-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + focal reducer, shows that this object is a comet with a very bright coma nearly 3 arcmin in diameter and a tail about 15 arcminutes long in PA 253.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)




M.P.E.C. 2015-G28 (including pre-discovery MASTER observations from Mar. 30.1 UT, showing the comet at mag 11.5-11.6) assigns the following preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2015 G2: T 2015 May 23.80; e= 1.0; Peri. = 257.48; q = 0.78;  Incl.= 147.56

Below you can see a graph generated using the software Orbitas and showing the C/2015 G2 predicted magnitude (in red) versus its elongation from the Sun. Click on the image for a bigger version.


by Ernesto Guido & Nick Howes

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

New Comet: C/2015 F4 (JACQUES)

CBET nr. 4085, issued on 2015, March 31, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~16) by C. Jacques on CCD images taken on 2015, March 27.2  by C. Jacques, E. Pimentel and J. Barros with a 0.28-m f/2.2 astrograph at the SONEAR Observatory (Oliveira, Brazil).  The new comet has been designated C/2015 F4 (JACQUES).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 14 unfiltered exposures, 60-sec each, obtained remotely on 2015, March 27.7 from Q62 (iTelescope network - Siding Spring) through a 0.43-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD, shows that this object is a comet with a sharp central condensation surrounded by a coma about 8" in diameter and a tail about 15" long in PA 237.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)


M.P.E.C. 2015-F159 assigns the following preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2015 F4: T 2015 Aug. 8.20; e= 1.0; Peri. = 31.64; q = 1.73;  Incl.= 47.82


Below you can see the discovery images  (click on it for a bigger version)

Credit: SONEAR Observatory

by Ernesto Guido & Nick Howes

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Comet: C/2015 F2 (POLONIA)

CBET nr. 4083, issued on 2015, March 26, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~17) by R. Reszelewski, M. Kusiak, M. Gedek and M. Zolnowski on CCD images taken on 2015, March 23 with a remote-controlled 0.1-m f/5 astrograph of the Polonia Observatory at San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, in the course of their comet-search program. The new comet has been designated C/2015 F2 (POLONIA).
 
We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 14 unfiltered exposures, 30 seconds each, obtained remotely on 2015, March 23.8 from Q62 (iTelescope network - Siding Spring) through a 0.43-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD, shows that this object is a comet with ill-defined central condensation surrounded by diffuse irregular coma 15" in diameter.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)


M.P.E.C. 2015-F120 assigns the following preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2015 F2: T 2015 Apr. 28.77; e= 1.0; Peri. = 351.97; q = 1.21;  Incl.= 28.87

by Ernesto Guido & Nick Howes

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bright Nova in Sgr - (PNV J18365700-2855420)

Following the posting on the Central Bureau's Transient Object Confirmation Page about a possible bright Nova in Sgr (TOCP Designation: PNV J18365700-2855420) we performed some follow-up of this object remotely through a 0.61-m f/6.5 astrograph + CCD) of  iTelescope network (MPC Code  U69 - Auberry, California - USA).

On our images taken on March 16.5, 2015 we can confirm the presence of an optical counterpart with R-CCD magnitude 5.9 at coordinates:

R.A. = 18 36 56.85, Decl.= -28 55 40.0 (equinox 2000.0; UCAC-4 catalogue reference stars).

Our wide-Field colour image of Nova Sagittarii 2015 No. 2. Details on the caption. Click on the image for a bigger version.


Click here or on the thumbnail below to see the full wide-field frame with the nova at the center.


Our annotated confirmation image. Click on it for a bigger version.


An animation showing a comparison between our confirmation image and the archive POSS2/UKSTU plate (R Filter - 1996). Our image was obtained when the object was only about +15 degree on the horizon. Click here or on the thumbnail below for a bigger version:

Possible Nova in Sgr - 16 March 2015 photo 
PNV_SGR_16_March_Guido_U69_T24_animation_zpse5moqno2.gif

According to the Atel #7230 "an optical spectrum of PNV J18365700-2855420 (see CBAT TOCP) was obtained using the FRODOspec spectrograph on the Liverpool Telescope at 2015 March 16.27 UT. The spectrum shows strong Balmer series emission exhibiting P Cygni profiles with velocities of ~2800 km/s. Numerous Fe II emission lines (also with P Cygni profiles) are also seen, along with O I, Si II and Mg II features. This confirms that PNV J18365700-2855420 is a bright classical nova of the Fe II spectral type"

by Ernesto Guido & Nick Howes