First successful observations at the Europlanet Telescope Network
February 5, 2021
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First successful observations at the Europlanet Telescope Network

One month after the first projects to observe at the Europlanet Telescope Network were granted in December, the first successful observations took place in January at the Moletai Observatoria in Lithuania.

The project “Reducing the selection effects in asteroid spins, shapes, and thermal parameters” is a long-term project aiming at determining physical parameters like spin, 3D shape, size, and thermal inertia of numerous asteroids that have been omitted by most of  the previous studies. Their slow rotation and small amplitudes of brightness variations make them difficult targets for photometric observations, thus creating an observing selection effect.

Through coordinated observations from multiple sites, the project is gradually decreasing bias. This results in detailed spin and shape models based on high-quality photometric datasets of these asteroids observed at various viewing geometries.

Additionally, the models are being scaled in size down to 5% precision by thermophysical modelling with infrared data obtained from space, and fitting the shape models to stellar occultations by asteroids (Marciniak et al. 2018, and 2019: Astronomy Astrophys. 610, A7; and 625, A139). The new photometric observations, as shown in the image, gathered recently at Moletai Observatory, complemented with data from other sites, will result in fully covered lightcurves for five asteroids with rotation periods up to 38 hours, and should soon lead to the determination of spin and shape models of these challenging targets.

While this project already successfully observed its targets, further observations at the Europlanet Telescope Network are soon to come. Additionally, the second Science Advisory Board meeting was already taking place at the end of January to evaluate three more projects that want to exploit the small telescopes network. While the decision on the funding of these proposals will be announced soon, we are in the meantime inviting interested observers to apply with their project to the NA2 Call for Observations at the Europlanet Telescope Network.

Illustration showing how the 58 km sized asteroid Ljuba changes its position relative to stars within 5 hours. The images were obtained on the 35/51 cm telescope at the Moletai Observatory of Vilnius University in 2021.

Further information can be found directly at the call website.

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