FT discovers new asteroid!

A team involving Astronomy Now's Nick Howes along with Italians G.Sostero and E.Guido of the CARA comet research group, recently had the opportunity to image comet 174P/Echeclus nearly simultaneously with both the 2-m Faulkes Telescopes, under excellent seeing conditions, from Haleakala (Hawaii) and Siding Spring (Australia).

The Comet's Coma

Stacking R-filtered exposures for a total of 930 sec, obtained remotely, from FTN on the night of June 10th, confirmed the presence of a parabolic envelope surrounding the comet, 47-arcsec in diameter, and a broad tail (or a train of debris) nearly 20-arcsec long and about 5-arcsec wide. Nick Howes commented "Being able to almost simultaneously image the comet from both scopes helped really nail down the shape of this Centaur comet's coma. At magnitude 19, this kind of work is really out of the bounds of home observatories, so using the 2m Faulkes really did help"

Centaurs Centaur.gif

Researchers at Armagh Observatory, have provided new insight into the links between comets and asteroids in the outer solar system and their dynamical evolution. These bodies, many of which have diameters greater than 100 km, are called "Centaurs" because of their "half-comet, half-asteroid" status. The first Centaur, called Chiron, was discovered in 1977, but since then more than 100 roughly similar objects have been found, circulating on orbits extending from just beyond Jupiter to as far out as Neptune and Pluto.

An accidental discovery!

What was also quite amazing, is that whilst imaging the comet, the team detected a totally new magnitude 21 object moving in the same field. Howes continues - "The fact that we got it moving over an hour using two independent scopes, helped us with the orbital submission to the MPC at Harvard, the object was not on any known catalogue and not on the MPC Checker return results"

Here we can see the combined image from174P_2011Jun10_Faulkes.jpg the two observing sessions, for an equivalent total exposure time of 1530 seconds with the R-filter. "What other scope, available to schools/amateurs could you get that kind of time/result on globally...This is what makes Faulkes such a priceless resource" said Nick.

 

You can learn more about minor planets and comets (including how to find your own to image!) by going to the Solar System section of the FT educational resources website here.