The past year has been incredibly busy but very productive especially on the astrometry front. SVO has now submitted observations to the Minor Planet Center for over 700 unique minor planets, including hazardous asteroids, various near earth objects, main, distant, inner belt asteroids, as well as dwarf planets and comets. Astrometry is the primary research being conducted now at the observatory with data being sent to the minor planet center on nearly a daily basis. An exciting component to this research has been the observatories ability to directly assist larger major sky survey observatories like F51-Pan-STARRS 1, Haleakala, T08–ATLAS-MLO, Mauna Loa, T05-ATLAS-HKO, Haleakala, 703–Catalina Sky Survey Arizona, G96 Mt. Lemmon Survey Arizona, 691 – Steward Observatory, Kitt Peak-Spacewatch (as well as others), by providing confirmation data on their discoveries, which in turn allows W34 to share confirmation credit. To date SVO W34 has assisted in the confirmation discovery of 44 minor planets with the majority of these being near earth objects and some being classified as potentially hazardous. I am also grateful for the past years collaboration with David Rankin over at V03 Big Waters observatory. His assistance and guidance has been invaluable and I hope that some of my efforts did indeed contribute to his discoveries.
Aside from astrometry research there has also been some limited time for other areas of interest. The observatory was able for the first time to generate a light curve for one of the larger exoplanets, Kepler 14b. Over a 4 hour period, a dip in the parent star’s light was recorded as it’s massive orbiting planet passed in front of the star. This was more of a test of the equipment’s ability than any generated research, but being able to record the activity of a distant exoplanets orbit is something that would have been far out of reach of small instruments like this only 10 – 20 years ago. It is a testament to the advancements in technology.
There was also some time for deep sky astrophotography with the newest camera, the ASI 1600mm. Almost all imaging is done in LRGB channels now with some narrowband imaging also being included. Samples of this years imaging sessions can be found in the gallery and on the Imaging Projects page.
Work around the observatory continues, with some more trees being removed this past year. There is still much left to do on this front. The need for equipment upgrades is a constant concern. A bigger scope would of course allow me to track fainter objects and contribute even more data for additional objects. Currently under the best conditions and with lots of image stacking, I can sometimes get to magnitude 20.6, but this is a rarity and not dependable. 20.2-20.3 is fairly common on the best of nights. Many of the objects that are in need of study fall below 21st magnitude. My trusty G11 mount is soon due an upgrade as well.
A look ahead to the coming year will hopefully see continued support of the Minor Planet Center’s astrometry program with a more concentrated effort on the confirmation of new NEO’s (near earth objects). Various other projects are in the early stages of planning, (some dependent upon equipment upgrades) and naturally deep sky astrophotography will also continue.