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Catch a Falling Star...

Last week’s close encounter with Asteroid 2012 DA14 prompted a flurry of activity from astronomers across the globe wanting to capture this exciting event.  Never before had an asteroid this size (approximately 40 m/130 ft wide) passed so close to Earth (27,200 km/17,200 miles) that we knew of before it took place.

On February 1, Dr. Gianluca Masi, a professional astronomer, as well as the creator and curator of the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0 web page, contacted Software Bisque about plans to broadcast real time video of the asteroid using his Paramount MEs

With 150,000 viewers already signed up to witness the event, Dr. Masi wanted to employ Software Bisque’s latest software technologies (including TheSkyX Pro, TPoint with Super Model, and the Camera Add On) to track this fast-moving (0.65 degrees per minute) visitor.

On February 6, from Golden Colorado, Tom Bisque teamed up with Dr. Masi for an intense “remote observatory control and tutorial session" to setup, configure, model, train periodic error, and test the new software.

A photo of M81 they snapped that evening contained the photons from a yet to be discovered supernova.  Chalk one up to serendipity.

As the asteroid approached the night of February 15, viewers immediately lit up the chat room on the Virtual Telescope Project site asking, “Why is the observatory roof closed?” 

Clouds!

Fortunately, the Paramount MEs, with the help of TheSkyX Pro, were able to continue to track the position of the asteroid until a break in the clouds permitted visual observation.

Dr. Masi wrote the following about his experience that night,

“For the occasion, the PlaneWave 17″ robotic unit was used, trusting its exceptional Paramount ME robotic mount.  The mount was controlled by TheSkyX Pro suite and the software was perfectly tuned to track this VERY DIFFICULT target. The results…speak by themselves: the asteroid was perfectly tracked; despite it was moving at 0.65 degrees per minute!  All this after the scope was just slewed, without any manual adjustment!  Amazing.”

After its latest pass, asteroid 2012 DA14 will visit us a bit more often, about once every ten months.

We look forward to 2012 DA14's next visit!

P.S.

The Valencia Astronomy Association was able to capture this 120 second video of asteroid 2012 DA14 using a CDK 17-inch and SBIG ST-7XME mounted on a Paramount ME (an 8’ x 5’ field of view):

http://www.astroava.org/images/asteroides/2012DA14-CAAT-15022013.gif


Posted 02-22-2013 1:40 PM by Daniel R. Bisque

Comments

Jose Luis wrote re: Catch a Falling Star...
on 02-26-2013 8:37 AM

Please find below the link to the image sequence capture of NEO 2012 DA14 I using PME+SBIG ST10+Takahashi TSA102.

Honestly, easy task for PME using custom track on object funtionality.

Best. José Luis.

estelario.blogspot.co.uk/.../neo-2012-da14-ii.html

astroava wrote re: Catch a Falling Star...
on 03-01-2013 8:16 AM

Hello Jose Luis.

You say it is "easy" with a Paramount ME. I invite you to come one day at our observatory and seeing if you're able to capture a NEO slower than the 2012 DA14, with 8’ x 5’ field, with a SBIG ST-7XME and a Paramount ME.

OK ?

Best Regards.

Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Catch a Falling Star...
on 03-05-2013 10:47 AM

@astroava:

"with 8’ x 5’ field, with a SBIG ST-7XME and a Paramount ME."

SB often uses a C14 at prime focus, so we understand the difficulties involved in capturing data at very narrow fields of view.

Yes, this is a small field of view for we amaeturs, and capturing data in 10 arcminute fields and smaller is not a trivial task.

What is your TPoint model indicate for the RMS pointing?  What OTA?  Is the mirror locked?   You using TheSkyX?

When working at small fields of view, every component of your imaging system must be scrutiized for flexures and other sources of "non repeatable" errors to get favorable results!

Gianluca wrote re: Catch a Falling Star...
on 03-11-2013 10:16 AM

Dear Dan,

I liked this post, it really captured my experience with the asteroid, thanks for sharing my session with the others! I want to mention that during the session you described above, I captured this impressive sequence:

www.virtualtelescope.eu/.../asteroid-2012-da14-very-close-encounter-an-exceptional-sequence

I wish to underline as all the hardware and software worked very, very beautifully. After more than 6 years of nightly experience with the PMEs I have, I can say that they are amazing: I never failed doing something, even very difficult things, as this one was for sure.

I wish to thank all of you there for the work you do and, above all, for the constant attention and support I have ever seen since 1996, when I started using TheSky.

Rigelrigel100 wrote re: Catch a Falling Star...
on 03-14-2013 12:28 PM

It's certainly a lot easier with the latest versions of TheSky and its wonderful Super Model feature, but it's still possible with older versions of this kit and software.  It's more about how this type of equipment is setup and configured.

This is a time-lapse of NEA 2013 ET taken with a tiny FOV (a C14 at f/11.5 on a Paramount ME, SBIG ST-10XME, generating a 13x9arcminute FOV, controlled by TheSky6): http://tinyurl.com/cm5q23y

Its apparent speed was a lot faster on the night it made its closest approach, and this time-lapse is made up of over 90 images taken over a period of 55-minutes:  http://youtu.be/nUFmBffCtN4

Was it easy?  No.  Was it easier because of the way I'd set up the Paramount ME and the other equipment, and how it was configured?  Yes.  And it was all done by remote control from 3000-miles away from the observatory!

There's an awful lot of very expensive astro kit out there, but unfortunately, much of it goes under-utilized because owners don't know how to set it up properly.

I did the same thing for Apophis earlier in the year - most others, including NASA's coverage wasn't tracking it well - generating not only trailed stars but also Apophis traling.

Paul

Rigelrigel100 wrote re: Catch a Falling Star...
on 03-14-2013 12:47 PM

PS The YouTube version isn't loading for some reason.  See this version on my Flickr site of the NEA 2013 ET time-lapse: http://flic.kr/p/e218cS

Paul

   

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