It was a many technically-challenging and formidable stellar occultation regard debate ever attempted: At slightest 54 watching teams with dozens of telescopes dispatched opposite dual continents, positioned to locate a rare, two-second glance of a small, apart Kuiper Belt intent flitting in front of a star. And it wasn’t only any KBO — it was a subsequent flyby aim of NASA’s New Horizons mission.
Overnight on Jun 2-3, about two-dozen members of a New Horizons group and other observers in Argentina and South Africa were anticipating to constraint a passing starlit shade of 2014 MU69, that a New Horizons booster will try in a flyby on New Year’s Day 2019.
“The stars aligned for this watching campaign, that was implemented expertly by a team,” pronounced New Horizons Program Executive Adriana Ocampo during NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “It’s extraordinary how exemplary astronomy – from tiny telescopes to some of a many modernized observatories on Earth — is assisting New Horizons devise a subsequent flyby, and it shows how truly tellurian space scrutiny is.”
All 54 telescope teams collected data, reported idea Principal Investigator Alan Stern, adding that group scientists started digging into that information when they returned home final week.
“A extensive volume had to go right to rightly govern such a large regard campaign, though it did,” pronounced Stern, of a Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “The categorical idea of these observations was to hunt for hazards; a delegate design was to try to glance a occultation of MU69 itself, in sequence to learn a accurate size. Scouring all a dozens of datasets for these dual objectives is going to take us a few weeks.”
Marc Buie, a New Horizons SwRI co-investigator who led a campaign, stressed that information from a European Space Agency’s Gaia idea and a Hubble Space Telescope were vicious to formulation a observations. “Without Gaia and Hubble, we doubt we could have succeeded so good during this,” Stern agreed, “Gaia and Hubble were essential to this success and we appreciate them both.”
Combining Gaia star positions with Hubble images supposing a information indispensable to envision a slight trail of MU69’s shade opposite Earth. “The Gaia star information has been vicious this whole operation,” Buie said. “Without it, there was no approach we could have likely such an accurate path.”
Observing by Air and Land
New Horizons has dual some-more chances to observe stellar occultations of MU69 this summer, on Jul 10 and Jul 17. On Jul 10 a group will occupy a absolute 100-inch (2.5-meter) telescope on NASA’s airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA); a plane’s vantage indicate from above a clouds will mislay bad continue as an regard obstacle, and SOFIA should be means to yield improved information than a smaller telescopes used in a occultation only completed. Airborne, SOFIA will yield a best vantage indicate to observe a Jul 10 occultation given a shade falls in a center of a Pacific Ocean.
On Jul 17, New Horizons group members will redeploy with two-dozen tiny mobile telescopes (40 centimeters in diameter) to apart southern lands in Patagonia, Argentina to observe a third and final event, that offers a most brighter star to examine even some-more deeply for waste around MU69.
Follow all of these observations and some-more about New Horizons and a ongoing tour of scrutiny in a Kuiper Belt on Facebook and Twitter regulating hashtag #mu69occ. Watch for group blogs and images on a NASA New Horizons website and a mission’s KBO Chasers page.
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