Asteroid Search Campaign 2016

The University Space Club under the Centre for Space Research and Applications, Federal University of Technology Akure in collaboration with the International Astronomical Search Collaboration is organizing the First Asteroid Search Campaign in West Africa.

The International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC) is an educational outreach program for high schools and colleges. It provides high quality astronomical data to students around the world. Students are able to make original astronomical discoveries and participate in hands-on astronomy. This service is provided at no cost to the participating schools!

IASC (pronounced “Isaac”) is a collaboration of:

  • Hardin-Simmons University (Abilene, TX)
  • Lawrence Hall of Science (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Global Hands-On Universe Association (Lisbon, Portugal)
  • Sierra Stars Observatory Network (Markleeville, CA)
  • Tarleton State University (Stephenville, TX)
  • Yerkes Observatory (University of Chicago)
  • National Astronomical Observatories of China (Beijing, China)
  • Pan-STARRS (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii)
  • Faulkes Telescopes Project (Wales)
  • G.V. Schiaparelli Astronomical Observatory (Italy)
  • Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, KY)
  • Astronomers Without Borders (Calabasas, CA)
  • Space Generation Advisory Council (Vienna, Austria)
  • Target Asteroids! (University of Arizona)
  • Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter (University of Arizona)
  • Astrometrica (H. Raab, Austria)
  • Las Cumbres Observatory Telescope Network (Santa Babara, CA)
  • Catalina Sky Survey, University of Arizona
  • NOJUM Magazine, Iran

BACKGROUND

Asteroids are small rocky bodies that are leftover building blocks from the formation of our solar system. Many of those can be found in the asteroid belt orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Others have different orbits around the Sun and can come close to Earth, in this case they are called Near Earth Objects (NEOs). Their size ranges from meters to kilometres in diameter. Due to the potential danger they can pose, it is important to know our cosmic neighbourhood very well. The more objects we are aware of and know about their orbits, the better we are prepared in case one of them gets too close.

As mentioned, it is important to know how many asteroids are out there and what characteristics they have (size, orbit, etc.). Asteroids are discovered with the help of (optical) telescopes by amateur astronomers. In most cases, pictures of a certain region of the sky are taken a few minutes or hours apart. Since stars do not change positions relative to each other, every moving object is potentially an asteroid (it could also be a satellite). Using special software WE can make such a discovery. Space Club FUTA is giving Students the opportunity to take part in an Asteroid Search Campaign, partnering with the International Astronomical Search Collaboration.

ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN

The campaign will be opened to Matriculated Students of the Federal University of Technology, Akure (Undergraduates and Postgraduates). Interested students will form a team of Maximum of 3 students and work together during the one-week long campaign between June 27-July 25. Typically, each team will get 3-5 image sets. This is an average depending upon factors such as the Moon and Weather. It takes about 20 minutes to analyse one set. This means each team can expect an average workload of 1 hour per day. The image analysis is done with Astrometrica, an easy to use software package provided by IASC (Astrometrica provides the ability to easily compare astromerical images for the purpose of moving object discovery). Selected teams will receive an info pack about the software to be used and other details on how to get ready for the Asteroid Search Campaign.

Each team would collaborate as a research team via the internet, submitting a single MPC (Minor Planet Center) report to IASC on each of the image sets that they get during the campaign. A team working over the internet will probably rotate the responsibility of analysing a set then share their work with the others on the team for comment. IASC then links their measurements to the official report that IASC’s data reduction group prepares. Although if the teams respond very quickly (e.g., within 24 hours or less) their measurements can be included directly in the IASC reports, and in some cases resulting in their being published by the MPC or even on rare occasion, the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

In case an Asteroid is discovered, more information will be received. A discovery has to be observed a second time within 7-10 days. At that point it is given a provisional designation by the Minor Planet Center. In 3-6 years as additional observations are made and the orbit is fully determined, the asteroid is numbered and placed into the world’s official minor planets catalogue by the International Astronomical Union. Numbered asteroids can be named by their discoverers. After the Campaign, participants will be asked to submit a short report to the Space Club FUTA about their experience