Schools asked to help observe far reaches of the Solar System

In an exciting new research project, schools have been invited to collaborate with the world renowned Lowell Observatory to image small, icy bodies in the far reaches of our Solar System. 

The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona is famous for the discovery of Pluto, once the ninth planet of our Solar System, now one of a handful of dwarf planets since the IAU reclassified it in 2006. 

Faulkes Telescope's pro-am programme manager, Nick Howes is working as a research associate with the Lowell observatory on a project to refine the orbits of other Pluto-like objects. As part of this exciting new project, schools using the Faulkes telescopes can collaborate and help the astronomers gather their data.

Centaur_0.gifCentaurs and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) are icy bodies which orbit the Sun beyond Jupiter. With characteristics of both asteoids and comets, the Centaurs orbit between Jupiter and Neptune and usually cross the orbit of at least 1 gas giant. KBOs are found beyond Neptune, in an area known as the Kuiper belt (or Kuiper-Edgeworth belt). Oort_kuiper.jpg

It is these types of objects which Faulkes Telescope users have been asked to observe. The objects in the target lists published on the front page of our website (http://www.faulkes-telescope.com) have only been observed on relatively few occassions. This means that their exact position on the sky, and the shape of their orbit are not well known - but with the help of schools, this can be changed.

In a pilot test of this project, Nick and his colleagues also discovered several new asteroids, so there is a chance you could find something new as well!

To get involved with this project you need to have an account on the Faulkes Telescopes. Then book your slots in the normal way, and choose some targets from the 'Interesting Objects' list. We will be updating these lists every few days, as there are lots of objects out there to observe! More observing details can be found on those pages - good luck and happy hunting!