European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2012 Press Release
Ref. PN: EPSC12/11
EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:01 CEST THURSDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2012
AMATEUR ASTRONOMER PHOTOGRAPHS THE SURFACE OF GANYMEDE
Technology has radically changed the contributions that amateurs can make to the field of astronomy. Using a readily-available ‘hobby’ telescope, off-the-shelf camera and computer equipment, plus experienced observing skills, Emmanuel I. Kardasis of the Hellenic Amateur Astronomy Association has produced the first amateur albedo map of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. This demonstration has implications for the future role of amateur astronomers. The work will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Madrid.
An albedo map details higher areas of reflectivity on an object’s surface recording where material is brighter or darker. Kardasis’ albedo map closely aligns with professional images of Ganymede’s surface, indicating features such as Phrygia Sulcus (furrows and ridges 3700km across) and the Nicholson region (a low-lying darker area).
Kardasis explains, “Ganymede has a tiny disk as seen from Earth so was a good test for my techniques. If the same methods were applied to other worlds, perhaps the volcanic moon Io, we could capture surface fluctuations. Professional observatories may create better images but they cannot monitor our rapidly and ever-changing Universe.”
To produce the images Kardasis attached a camera to his telescope and recorded a video of Ganymede. Selecting only the sharpest frames of the video allowed him to obtain a series of images when the atmospheric conditions – known as ‘seeing’ – were most favourable. These best images were then stacked and aligned, before being enhanced through photo-editing software.
The equipment required for amateurs to make valuable contributions is relatively easy to obtain. Kardasis says, “Creating useful images of planets requires a telescope with a diameter of at least eight inches. For tiny discs, such as the moons of Jupiter, bigger is definitely better. My Ganymede images were made using an 11-inch telescope. You also need a good motor drive on your tripod, a sensitive camera, some freely-available software, and lots of patience!”
Future amateur programs could monitor both surface and atmospheric changes on worlds as varied as Uranus, Neptune and Titan, complementing more detailed but far less regular observations made by professionals. Kardasis says, “I hope my work will inspire anyone interested in astronomy to use whatever equipment they have to make useful observations.”
Emmanuel I. Kardasis
EPSC 2012 Press Officer
Mob: +44 7756 034243
EPSC 2012 Press Officer
Tel: +34 91 722 3021 (Spanish enquiries)
Fax: +34 91 722 3022
The original observations (top) and interpretations (bottom) of the first ever amateur albedo map of Ganymede. Credit: Manos Kardasis.
Albedo maps of Ganymede (left) and how they relate to known surface features (right). Credit: Manos Kardasis.
Amateur photographs of Jupiter and Ganymede, accompanied with a professionally-obtained labeled map (bottom right). Credit: Manos Kardasis.
Amateur astronomers are now using technology to bring their images within professional standards. Credit: Manos Kardasis.
EUROPEAN PLANETARY SCIENCE CONGRESS 2012
The European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) is the major European meeting on planetary science and attracts scientists from Europe and around the World. The 2012 programme includes more than 50 sessions and workshops. The EPSC has a distinctively interactive style, with a mix of talks, workshops and posters, intended to provide a stimulating environment for discussion. This year’s meeting will take place at the IFEMA-Feria de Madrid, Spain, from Sunday 23 September to Friday 28 September 2012. EPSC 2012 is organised by Europlanet, a Research Infrastructure funded under the European Commission’s Framework 7 Programme, in association with the European Geosciences Union, with the support of the Centro de Astrobiología of Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (CAB-INTA).
Details of the Congress and a full schedule of EPSC 2012 scientific sessions and events can be found at the official website: http://www.epsc2012.eu/
The Europlanet Research Infrastructure is a major (€6 million) programme co-funded by the European Union under the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission. The Europlanet Research Infrastructure brings together the European planetary science community through a range of Networking Activities, aimed at fostering a culture of cooperation in the field of planetary sciences, Transnational Access Activities, providing European researchers with access to a range of laboratory and field site facilities tailored to the needs of planetary research, as well as on-line access to the available planetary science data, information and software tools, through the Integrated and Distributed Information Service. These programmes are underpinned by Joint Research Activities, which are developing and improving the facilities, models, software tools and services offered by Europlanet RI.
Europlanet Project website: www.europlanet-ri.eu
Europlanet Outreach website: www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach
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