Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Asteroid 2012 KT42 buzzes earth!!

Asteroid 2012 KT42 Buzzes the earth, the sixth closest approach on record!! inside 30,000 Klms. (2 Hours ago) Everyone's on this tonight our good friends over at Remanzacco Observatory have an excellent article on the passage.

I took two 20 Sec images, taken about 40 minutes apart , the second image is very close to MOID (closest approach) where it was traveling at a phenomenal 890 arcsecs per minute, it was just over ~200 Arc secs per minute in the first image. NOTE: the platescales are the same - checkout the acceleration in just 40 mins. Actually I took 15 image of which only three had the asteroid in them - that's how fast it was going. I'm sure someone else will have a tracking image, unfortunately I didn't have time to set that up properly, so I just have two nice trailing images.

Images are time stamped in UT & the positions are: 2012 KT MOID-40m 15:58:31 -16:08:15 2012 KT MOID 15:38:05 -12:20:50 Observatory H06 (note the MOID is just in the file name for the position at the top of the hour of MOID and not the exact MOID)

It amazing what a robotic telescope can do while you are driving home in city traffic!!!!

"But officer I was on hands free" ;-) !!!!

Seriously though it was all pre-programed and I downloaded the images when I got home.

Later tonight observers in South Asia may be a chance to see it transit the sun in a warm up for the Venus Transit next week.

[Updated: European's have an interesting definition of "South" Asia ;-) it missed by 2 degrees - anyway we got good photos at closest approach]

If my good friends in India manage to capture it at 10:10 UT, We'll bring photos here

Peter Lake "Astroswanny"

Sunday, May 27, 2012

SKA Decision ....its a tie!

Image Credits (c) SKA Organisation/Swinburn Astronomy Productions

(Subject to Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 un-ported licence).

Australians all let us rejoice for we are girt by Science!!!!

Well Finally!!!! Its done, the site selection decision for the SKA was announced by the operations working group in a meeting on the 25th May. The committee jointly awarded the Australian/NZ and South African bids with the right to host the worlds largest Radio Telescope and divided the science goals between them.

Already the key players are celebrating with drinks suggestions buzzing around twitter. Phil Diamond (@casschief) suggesting Sambucca, Kalua, Amaretto with lemonade on the rocks but Brian Boyle (@brianboyleska) preferring a line up of 3 single malts from the houses of Scapa, Knockando, Ardmore. Its good to know they, haven't lost their sense of humor and can still spell after all the hard work!!!

As an outsider with no specific knowledge of what was going on, but a keen follower of the details of various discussions, it seems that the bids were both of such high quality, that if some of the key aspects differentiating each bid were lost the overall project might have suffered.

From an Australian perspective it appears that the brilliance of the CSIRO research into the concept of the "phased array" might have kept us in the hunt.

The site selection committee always said they would make the decision based on the best science, what they have essentially done is divided the science goals between each site, yet still fund the full development of the Telescopes at each site. The fear was that if a so called "Compromise solution" was found that, it would be a lose/lose and mean a scaled down telescope at each site - this seems not to be the case in the commentary I have seen so far.

This excellent article by Bryan Gaensler discusses why the SKA is a win/win for everyone.

Also worth a read, is this article by the project scientist Lisa Harvey-Smith who worked tirelessly on the project.

Esssentially the science goals have been divided according to the strengths of both bids: Australia/NZ will perform the surveys and go after the Low Frequency targets (the high red shift galaxies) and the South African's will target the mid spectrum frequencies projects and more individual observations of galaxies. In layman's terms - The Australians will look at the oldest galaxies and survey the dark matter, the South African's will look at the characteristics of individual galaxies and would be more likely to find the "airport radar" on a planet with intelligent life.

[Updated: over lunch my 13 yr old daughter protested this strategy is fundamentally flawed as "everyone knows the most intelligent life will be found in the oldest galaxies" - however she glazed over when I started to explain the difference between wideband and narrowband imaging]

There is a stunning list of science goals that will be enough to keep everyone busy for two decades and beyond.

The bids seemed inseparable on the following criteria:

- Radio quietness and remoteness

- Governmental support and commitment

- Strong science communities

- Significant investment in Fibre and Pathfinder projects

The proximity to Europe and the lofty (and worthy) contribution to raising Africa out of poverty was a "non-scientific" but often discussed factor. Also the South African bid team gathered a lot of respect for how they had mobilised and built a radio astronomy community.

Remembering the work of John O'Sullivan, the Australian Radio Astronomer who created the codec that lead to the wireless internet (and earned the CSIRO $400m), the Australian bid team played to their strengths and relied on their skill and expertise in ground breaking research. The concept of a "phased array", where different observers can "zone in" on different parts of the sky at the same time was the "Zinger" that seems to have kept them in the game. Whilst I am sure there is probably much more to it than that, from what I have read from the commentators closer to the action, it was a key factor.

So happy campers all round!

The work begins on the design of the instruments, don't expect anything amazing to show up in your twitter feed next week, this is a 20 year project!!!!

Congratulations to every single person involved in this great win for Astronomy in Australia and New Zealand.

Science doesn't cost - it pays!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jeff Wood's Master Mosaic on M81 & M82

The only thing that gets you more excited than having a 0.5m Telescope and doing real science, is when someone else logs into your scope and does this.......

Jeff Woods is a regular iTelescope.net user, and an important part of the team. He has just finished tuning up T11 with a new improved pointing model that required great patience and sitting out in sub-zero temperatures for about 8 hours.

I'm not sure what excites me the most about this image the sheer size of its field of view, the brilliance of the image or the fact that it separates perfectly a double star with a tell tale double diffraction spike.

It is a mosaic image of 4 panes stitched together combining M81 & M82 into one FOV.

A stunning result, what I am growing to love about Jeff's images are the very deep natural colours of his galaxies, that are not overstated in any way. A good sign of a quality image is the way the imager treats the stars in the photos, you can see here the variation is star colours is great! The most difficult aspect of any deep, deep sky object is the treatment of the star.

Congratulations Jeff and awesome work!

See More of Jeff's great work here and a full Hi-Res version of this amazing work.

Count the galaxies in this amazing image, I counted at least 18 each perfectly formed some tiny and very distant. Enjoy!!!


Custom Search