solar system

Discovery of Main-Belt Comet P/2006 VW139 by Pan-STARRS1

Main belt asteroid (300163) 2006 VW139 (later designated P/2006 VW139 ) was discovered to exhibit comet-like activity by the Pan-STARRS1 survey telescope using automated point-spread-function analyses performed by PS1’s Moving Object Processing System. Deep follow-up observations show both a short (∼10" ) antisolar dust tail and a longer (∼60" ) dust trail aligned with the object’s orbit plane, similar to the morphology observed for another main-belt comet, P/2010 R2 (La Sagra), and other well-established comets, implying the action of a long-lived, sublimation-driven emission event.

Accepted for publication in ApJ Letters

"occult" science at LCOGT

Our newly-commissioned Lucky Imaging and High Speed Photometry (LIHSP) cameras on FTN and FTS scored a great success on June 23rd at their first attempt to collect science data, catching occulations of both Pluto and its satellite Charon from FTN!  An "occultation" is simply the transit of an object along the line of sight to a star, From occultations of Kuiper Belt Objects, you can learn about their size, and a for large one like Pluto, its atmosphere and or

Upper Limits on the Number of Small Bodies in Sedna-Like Orbits by the TAOS Project

We present the results of a search for occultation events by objects at distances between 100 and 1000 AU in light curves from the Taiwanese-American Occultation Survey. We searched for consecutive, shallow flux reductions in the stellar light curves obtained by our survey between 2005 February 7 and 2006 December 31 with a total of ~4.5 × 10^9 three-telescope simultaneous photometric measurements. No events were detected, allowing us to set upper limits on the number density as a function of size and distance of objects in Sedna-like orbits, using simple models.
The Astronomical Journal 138 1893, doi: 10.1088/0004-6256/138/6/1893

The Solar System


Our Solar System consits of the Sun, four rocky planets, four gas giant planets, moons, many dwarf planets, asteroids, the Kuiper Belt, the Oort Cloud and much more. Space craft have orbited or visited many of the planets and moons and humans have visited Earth's Moon. Studying our Solar System helps scientists learn not only about our surroundings, but also about how other planetary systems may have formed.

Solar System Taboo

Cut out the name cards for objects in the Solar System and hand them out to the students.  Ask the students to try and describe the object given at the top of the card, but without using the 3 words underneath. (This game is based upon the popular board game, Taboo, and has been amended from the association for astronomy education website where more astronomy resources can be found - )