IMAG­ING FOR SCI­ENCE 3$57 $67(52,'6

How to take sci­en­tif­i­cally use­ful im­ages of space rocks and con­trib­ute to wider stud­ies.

Sky at Night Magazine - - CONTENTS - ABOUT THE WRITER Pete Lawrence is an ex­pert as­tronomer and as­tropho­tog­ra­pher who holds a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in dig­i­tal imag­ing

As­ter­oids or mi­nor plan­ets are small So­lar Sys­tem bod­ies that are vis­i­ble be­cause they re­flect sun­light. The larger mem­bers of this group have di­men­sions mea­sured in hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres, but as­ter­oids can be as small as 1m along their largest axis. Most as­ter­oids are lo­cated in what’s known as the main belt, a huge

Pete Lawrence looks at how your im­ages can help mon­i­tor the po­si­tion of po­ten­tially haz­ardous ob­jects cross­ing Earth’s or­bit

repos­i­tory for such ob­jects lo­cated be­tween the or­bits of Mars and Jupiter. In all but very rare cir­cum­stances, as­ter­oids ap­pear star-like through am­a­teur scopes. Vis­ually, they can be mea­sured in terms of their bright­ness, po­si­tion and oc­ca­sional ap­par­ent in­ter­ac­tions with other ob­jects.

The sheer num­ber of as­ter­oids in or­bit around the Sun means that oc­ca­sion­ally we get to see one oc­cult a dis­tant star. As­ter­oid oc­cul­ta­tions pro­vide an im­por­tant way to de­ter­mine the shape pro­file of th­ese rocky bod­ies.

Ac­cu­rate date and time record­ing is vi­tal when ob­serv­ing as­ter­oids, as it is this in­for­ma­tion which ul­ti­mately is used to re­fine the ob­ject’s or­bit and po­si­tion.

Most as­ter­oids ap­pear star­like; Vesta at op­po­si­tion is one of the few that can be cap­tured as an ex­tended ob­ject

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