Animated Asteroids from FTN

On Thursday, January 26 2012 a group of Faulkes Telescope Project users combined forces to observe an asteroid. Grudziadz, The Leigh Technology Academy, College Le Monteil ASAM, Escola Secundária da Cidadela, Moreton Hall School and Regina Mundi College used the 2-meter diameter Faulkes Telescope North to observe the same patch of sky over a period of almost 5 hours. Their objective was asteroid 1676 Kariba but they caught a second asteroid (probably 1998 RM73) too.

The school groups got a total of 73 frames (in that link you can use your cursor keys to move between frames) so I thought it would be nice to make an animation of the field. I wrote a small script to use the observations JSON output to grab the frames. I stitched the frames into an animation using the excellent ImageMagick (on the command line) and saved the result as an animated gif. You can see it below at half the full resolution in order to keep the file size down. There is no correction for exposure time/sky brightness, so the levels do jump around a bit, but for something that only took a few minutes to do I'm quite pleased with the result. The two asteroids are fairly obvious in the middle of the field but you can also make out faint edge-on galaxy PGC 1675513 over to the left.

With a series of images of an asteroid over time you can calculate their orbits around the Sun or measure brightness changes to work out their speed of rotation. There's definitely a lot to be gained from combining the efforts of several groups in a joint project such as this.