Edward Gomez's blog

Zeitgeist 2010

As 2011 begins we thought it would be interesting to have a look at some numbers which were significant for LCOGT during 2010. The majority of the numbers are precise but a couple of them are estimates (look at the descriptions for more information). Not all the information is scientifically relevent, but we hope you enjoy it anyway.


Observing the aftermath of a main-belt asteroid collision

Here are the two images hot off the press. The observations of a strange asteroid were taken about 58 hr apart. It was reported that Steve Larson of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, had imaged the asteroid (596) Scheila on December 11.44-11.47 UT with the 0.68-m Schmidt telescope at Catalina and found it to be in apparent outburst with a comet-like appearance. This is the first well-documented occasion that a main-belt asteroid has been seen to be surrounded by a fuzzy coma.

Science Hack day

Last weekend I was part of the first UK Science Hack Day. Strangely it lasts a whole weekend, but the 'day' aspect refers to a 24 hour hack session. We were hosted by The Guardian newspaper in London (where many people also ended up sleeping there too!). The interesting aspect of the weekend was undoubtably the people; science academics who were keen on coding mixed with computer coders who were keen on science to work on joint projects.

First light from Santa Barbara 1m

The observatory site we are affectionately calling BPL (back parking lot) is our on-site testing ground for the 1m and 0.4m projects. We have an enclosure for each; an aqawan for 0.4m and an Ash dome for our 1m. The first of our 1m network was recently installed and achieved first light on 12 June. The seeing from Santa Barbara was not ideal (about 4") but the attached colour image is still a major achievement.

First 'sequenced' image with 0.4m

Last night, the 0.4m telescope in the back parking lot (BPL) produced the first fully 'sequenced' observation with the new control system.  The sequencer is the layer of software which sits on top of all the low-level telescope, instrument, and enclosure control systems and figures out what all needs to be done to accomplish an observation.  It then 'sequences' those operations to satisfy their dependencies (e.g. don't start exposing until the enclosure is open) and sees them through to completion.

Comet Vales: A spiraling comet

Richard Miles from British Astronomical Association has been coordinating UK schools to make observations of a comet that is behaving strangely. Comet P/2010 H2 (VALES) underwent a major outburst around 2010 April 15 brightening by more than 1000 times (possibly even more than this) in a matter of a few hours.  Before this date, the object  was not known.  After this date it had taken on the appearance of a 12th magnitude star.  The comet sooon began to exhibit an expanding coma.

New exoplanets turn planetary theory upside down

The discovery of nine new planets challenges the reigning theory of the formation of planets, according to new observations by astronomers, 2 of which for our own Dr Rachel Street and Dr Tim Lister .

Unlike the planets in our solar system, two of the newly discovered planets are orbiting in the opposite direction to the rotation of their host star. This upsets the primary theory of how planets are formed. The planets are called “exoplanets” because they are located outside of our solar system.


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