Schools across Europe team up to image an asteroid and its moon


Last week, a team of schools from across Europe joined forces to use Faulkes Telescope South to image a binary asteroid throughout the course of a day. The schools, from the UK, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and France have been working together since 2010, after receiving funding from the EU's Comenuis programme, to collaborate on an asteroids project named 'In Orbit with Europe'. Earlier this year, the team successfully imaged a single asteroid, named Kariba, and produced an impressive plot of how it rotated in space - this time they've gone one step further and chosen an asteroid with a smaller companion!

The leader of the team, Andre Debackere, from College Le Monteil, France, reports on the team's observations below.

" As in January last year, pupils from different schools in Europe used the Faulkes Telescopes this week to observe a special asteroid called (11264) Claudiomaccone.

The small asteroid “Claudiomaccone”, about 4 km diameter, was discovered in 1979 by Nikolai Chernykh, and is a main belt object. In 2003, light curve analysis of this asteroid showed it had a natural satellite about 1 km diameter. An asteroid with a moon!

The weather was clear at Siding Spring this Thursday October 11th and during 4 hours, schools involved in the project took turns to pilot the 2 meter class telescope call FTS. First “Collège Le Monteil FR” then “The Leigh Technology Academy UK”, “Moreton Hall school UK”, “Escola secundaria da Cidadela PT”, “Planetarium i Obserwatorium Astronomiczne, ZST - Grudziadz, PL” and finally “ Regina Mundi College IR”. In total, 82 images were taken. All the teachers, pupils and Alison Tripp from the Faulkes team were talking by Skype during this session.

It’s the first time that we observe a binary asteroid and we hope to bring out the satellite in the light curve we will obtain with our observations…"


An animation of all the images taken by the team of schools was produced by LCOGT's Stuart Lowe, and can be seen below:



Further results, including the lightcurve from the observations are being finalised, and we'll let you know the outcome as soon as we can!



Schools and amateurs help boost ESA's asteroid hunt

A partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Faulkes Telescope Project promises to boost the ESA's space hazards research while helping students to discover potentially dangerous space rocks.
ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme is keeping watch over space hazards, including disruptive space weather, debris objects in Earth orbit and asteroids that pass close enough to cause concern.

The asteroids – known as ‘near-Earth objects’, or NEOs, since they cross Earth’s orbit – are a particular problem.

Any attempt to survey and catalogue hazardous asteroids faces a number of difficulties. They’re often jet black or at least very dark, they can approach rather too close before anyone sees them, and they’re often spotted only once and then disappear before the discovery can be confirmed.  
Crowdsourcing the astronomy community
So ESA is turning to amateur astronomers to ‘crowdsource’ observations as part of Europe’s contribution to the global asteroid hunt. These efforts will add to the follow-up observations already done at ESA’s own telescope on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
This month, the UK’s Faulkes Telescope Project will become the latest team to formally support the SSA programme. Spain’s La Sagra Sky Survey, operated by the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca, began helping SSA earlier this year.

Asteroid Lutetia
These are tough to spot

Sharing expertise and observing time
“The wider astronomy community offers a wealth of expertise and enthusiasm, and they have the time and patience to verify new sightings; this helps tremendously,” says Detlef Koschny, Head of NEO activity at ESA’s SSA programme office.

“In return, we share observing time at ESA’s own Optical Ground Station in Tenerife and provide advice, support and professional validation. We’ll assist them in any way we can.”

The Faulkes Telescope Project runs both educational and research programmes, based at the University of Glamorgan in the UK.

Public education and outreach
The project has a strong record in public education and science outreach, and is a partner of the US-based Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope network, which owns and operates the two 2m Faulkes telescopes. The Faulkes Telescope Project supports hundreds of schools across Europe.

OGS building
ESA's Optical Ground Station, Tenerife

“Our new cooperation with ESA is a great opportunity. Use of the 2 m-diameter telescopes in Hawaii and Siding Spring, Australia, will greatly enhance asteroid-spotting for the SSA programme, enabling fainter object detection and tracking from a global telescope network,” says Nick Howes, Pro-Am Programme Manager at the Faulkes Telescope.

“For European students, collaborating on exciting ESA activities and possibly detecting new NEOs is very appealing, as it’s engagement with one of the world’s great space agencies doing critical scientific work.”
ESA’s SSA programme is developing services and infrastructure to enable Europe to observe NEOs, predict their orbits, produce impact warnings and be involved in possible mitigation measures and civil response.

It will also provide services to monitor man-made debris objects in orbit that can pose hazards to satellites and to monitor the effects of space weather phenomena on space and ground assets.


The original news story can be found here, along with links to ESA's space hazard research programme. 

Schools from across Europe join forces on the FTs

On Thursday 26th January, schools from across Europe joined forces to observe an asteroid zipping through our Solar System.

The schools from the UK, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and France are part of a Comenius-funded project, which consists of students from all the schools involved working together on Faulkes Telescope data to investigate asteroids.

The observing day on 26th January was organised by Andre Debackere, from College Le Monteil ASAM in France, in collaboration with the Faulkes Telescope Project (FTP), and LCOGT. Andre set a date for their group observations, and the FTP liaised with LCOGT's Edward Gomez to ensure that slots were available on that day for each school to use. After booking up each slot for the schools, the students were ready to go!

On the day of the observations, FTP team members, Sarah Roberts and Alison Tripp were on hand on Skype to answer any queries from the Comenius group schools.

"This was one of the most fun observing days that we've had in a long time" commented FTP's Education Director, Sarah Roberts. "It was really enjoyable watching the students talking to each other on Skype, and was great seeing how excited they were when the images were coming in from the telescopes".

LCOGT's Astronomy web developer, Stuart Lowe made a quick animation of the observations that the schools took - it's clear to see from this that they managed to snap 2 asteroids moving across the field of view of the telescope - a double success for the project!

Watch this space for reports from the school students on how the day went, and how they plan to analyse their data.

You can also read more about the Comenius project on their team website here. The schools involved are: Grudziadz (Poland), The Leigh Technology Academy (UK), College Le Monteil ASAM (France), Escola Secundária da Cidadela (Portugal), Moreton Hall School (UK) and Regina Mundi College (Ireland). 

Schools team create asteroid lightcurve

Earlier this month we reported that schools from across Europe had joined together to observe an asteroid travelling through the Solar System. LCOGT's Stuart Lowe made a quick animation of the asteroid, but the Comenius-funded schools team have now analysed the data and produced a fantastic light curve of the asteroid as it tumbled through space.

The plot, produced using the free software package, SalsaJ, shows how the light reflected by asteroid Kariba during its journey across the telescope's field of view, changes as it spins in space. From this lightcurve, the rotation period of the asteroid can be obtained and from the data here, it appears that asteroid Kariba takes just under 2 hours to make a full rotation.  

"It's fantastic to see what schools can achieve using the FTs when they work together" said Dr Sarah Roberts, the FT Education director, " let's hope that more schools with telescope accounts see what has been achieved in one day by this team, and are inspired to work on some collaborative projects of their own. After all, the sky's the limit!"

If you would like to get involved with working with other schools using the FTs, feel free to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we can put you in touch with like-minded schools.

For a larger version of the lightcurve, click here to go to Raoul Behrend's (Mathematics specialist of asteroids at the University of Geneva) website. 

Fully-funded Teacher Training Courses in March-June 2012

The European Hands-On Universe (EU-HOU) project is offering new 5-day training sessions on 'Bringing Frontline interactive astronomy to the classroom' and 2-day seminars on radio astronomy to all interested teachers.

The dates and links to more information on these courses can be found on this page :

If you are a teacher from the UK, you can apply to the British Council for funding to attend these courses/seminars. The funding will cover everything - course cost, accommodation, subsistence and travel.

If you are a teacher from outside the UK you can apply for funding from your Comenius National Agency.

Read more: Fully-funded Teacher Training Courses in March-June 2012