Tag Archives: Sofia

IOTA Announcement – Occultation By Neptune’s Moon Triton – 5 October 2017

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The following recently came across the ASRAS email list from ASRAS and IOTA member Brad Timerson. If you’ve the gear for it, this is an excellent chance to contribute to some far-out science.

There will be an occultation of a 12.5-mag. star by Neptune’s large satellite Triton the early evening of October 5th (just before 8pm EDT) that will be visible from east of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s the brightest star to be occulted by Triton since the Voyager flyby showed that the satellite has a substantial atmosphere with interesting dark plumes. The occultation will allow us to learn more about the atmosphere, and its variation with altitude and latitude. Sofia plans to fly over the Atlantic, to try to catch the central flash, where Triton’s whole atmosphere will focus/amplify the star’s light, probing deeper parts of the atmosphere. This might also be observed from Florida, but observations anywhere from the East Coast area are sought, to sample a wide range of latitudes of Triton’s atmosphere. Details of the occultation are available at MIT’s Web site for the event at hubble.mit.edu/prediction.html.

The central time for the Rochester area is within several seconds of 7:55:40 pm EDT on October 5th. For an observer near the center of the path, the event could last as long as 3 minutes. Because the Rochester area is north of that path, any occultation or atmospheric dimming would likely last some fraction of that time. You should plan to record the event for about 10 minutes before and after the time shown here.

A main challenge of the event will be to record Triton and the target star with a good signal, preferably with clear separation between 8th-mag. Neptune less than a quarter arc minute away. You will need good scale to separate the objects well enough. More observing tips are given on the MIT web site. The target star is about a magnitude brighter than Triton.

Telescopes as small as 8″ Newtonians will show the target star. (see included image from a European observer) For occultation work, we don’t need to “see” the occulting body (Triton in this case), just the object being occulted. Low light and/or integrating video cameras are best for this observation. However, standard astronomical cameras operated in a mode so as to produce images as quickly as possible will also work. Testing ahead of time to determine the correct exposure to just barely detect Triton should be done. This is to insure that the light from nearby Neptune doesn’t overwhelm that of the nearby moon and star at the time of the event.

Target star, Neptune, and Triton.

I plan on using my 10″ Meade LX200GPS at either f/6.3 (focal reducer) or at the normal f/10 prime focus. I will be using a Watec 120N+ low light video camera and integrating for 64 or 128 frames (2 seconds and 4 seconds). I’m still experimenting and might even need longer integration times.

Triton occults 4UC 410-143659, 5 October 2017 – visible regions from Earth.

Everyone with suitable equipment is encouraged to try this event. And I would appreciate it if this message is forwarded to any nearby universities that might have the ability to observe this event. If individual images are taken (instead of video) the exact time for each exposure is required (don’t depend on the computer’s internal clock. Use a GPS-based time). For analysis, it may be possible to measure the light level on individual images or the images can be combined into a video and measuring software used on the video.

Please contact me (EMAIL) for additional information or to submit observations.

NASA News Digest: Space Science For 15 March – 26 March 2015

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The NASA News service provides up-to-date announcements of NASA policy, news events, and space science. A recent selection of space science articles are provided below, including direct links to the full announcements. Those interested in receiving these news announcements directly from NASA can subscribe to their service by sending an email to:


New Desktop Application Has Potential To Increase Asteroid Detection, Now Available To Public

RELEASE 15-041 (Click here for the full article) – 15 March 2015

2015april2_15_041A software application based on an algorithm created by a NASA challenge has the potential to increase the number of new asteroid discoveries by amateur astronomers.

Analysis of images taken of our solar system’s main belt asteroids between Mars and Jupiter using the algorithm showed a 15 percent increase in positive identification of new asteroids.

During a panel Sunday at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, NASA representatives discussed how citizen scientists have made a difference in asteroid hunting. They also announced the release of a desktop software application developed by NASA in partnership with Planetary Resources, Inc., of Redmond, Washington. The application is based on an Asteroid Data Hunter-derived algorithm that analyzes images for potential asteroids. It’s a tool that can be used by amateur astronomers and citizen scientists.

The new asteroid hunting application can be downloaded at: topcoder.com/asteroids

For information about NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, visit: www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative

NASA Spacecraft Detects Aurora And Mysterious Dust Cloud Around Mars

RELEASE 15-045 (Click here for the full article) – 18 March 2015

2015april2_15_045aNASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.

The presence of the dust at orbital altitudes from about 93 miles (150 kilometers) to 190 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface was not predicted. Although the source and composition of the dust are unknown, there is no hazard to MAVEN and other spacecraft orbiting Mars.

“If the dust originates from the atmosphere, this suggests we are missing some fundamental process in the Martian atmosphere,” said Laila Andersson of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospherics and Space Physics (CU LASP), Boulder, Colorado.

For images related to the findings, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/maven

NASA’s SOFIA Finds Missing Link Between Supernovae And Planet Formation

RELEASE 15-044 (Click here for the full article) – 19 March 2015

2015april2_15_044aUsing NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an international scientific team discovered that supernovae are capable of producing a substantial amount of the material from which planets like Earth can form.

These findings are published in the March 19 online issue of Science magazine.

“Our observations reveal a particular cloud produced by a supernova explosion 10,000 years ago contains enough dust to make 7,000 Earths,” said Ryan Lau of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

The research team, headed by Lau, used SOFIA’s airborne telescope and the Faint Object InfraRed Camera for the SOFIA Telescope, FORCAST, to take detailed infrared images of an interstellar dust cloud known as Supernova Remnant Sagittarius A East, or SNR Sgr A East.

For more information about SOFIA, visit: www.nasa.gov/sofia or www.dlr.de/en/sofia

For information about SOFIA’s science mission and scientific instruments, visit: www.sofia.usra.edu or www.dsi.uni-stuttgart.de/index.en.html

NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover Finishes Marathon, Clocks In At Just Over 11 Years

RELEASE 15-049 (Click here for the full article) – 24 March 2015

2015april2_15_049cThere was no tape draped across a finish line, but NASA is celebrating a win. The agency’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon Tuesday — 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers) – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.

“This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world,” said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “A first time happens only once.”

The rover team at JPL plans a marathon-length relay run at the laboratory next week to celebrate.

The long-lived rover surpassed the marathon mark during a drive of 153 feet (46.5 meters). Last year, Opportunity became the long-distance champion of all off-Earth vehicles when it topped the previous record set by the former Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 moon rover.

For more information about Opportunity, visit www.nasa.gov/rovers

Follow the project on social media at: twitter.com/MarsRovers and www.facebook.com/mars.rovers

NASA’s Hubble, Chandra Find Clues That May Help Identify Dark Matter

RELEASE 15-046 (Click here for the full article) – 26 March 2015

2015april2_15_046Using observations from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have found that dark matter does not slow down when colliding with itself, meaning it interacts with itself less than previously thought. Researchers say this finding narrows down the options for what this mysterious substance might be.

Dark matter is an invisible matter that makes up most of the mass of the universe. Because dark matter does not reflect, absorb or emit light, it can only be traced indirectly by, such as by measuring how it warps space through gravitational lensing, during which the light from a distant source is magnified and distorted by the gravity of dark matter.

To learn more about dark matter and test such theories, researchers study it in a way similar to experiments on visible matter — by watching what happens when it bumps into other objects. In this case, the colliding objects under observation are galaxy clusters.

For images and more information about the Hubble Space Telescope, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/main