Best of AOP - Solar System


Millions of asteroids populate the inner solar system and many more at much greater distances. These rocky inhabitants casually orbit the Sun and with feebleness reflect sunlight. All of the asteroids in this frame are part of the main asteroid belt- a collection of thousands of irregular shaped rocks (1-4km in size) between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter (approximately 4 AU, or 4 Earth-Sun distances).

This is a large animated GIF (700K). I could not find a way to compress the images without losing too much information. In this image you will find 5 asteroids. Try to find them on your own, and then click on the SOLUTION to see the answer with the names of the asteroids labeled. You will see many artifacts. Some are caused by the detector, such as bright pixels which shift because the images are shifted. Others are caused by cosmic rays which are only evident in a single frame. Ignore these things to find the asteroids which look like moving "stars."

You will also find a handful of dim fuzzy oval objects which are all background galaxies hundreds of millions of light years away. Click HERE to see the most recent example of an asteroid's motion against the background stars. This is a 2 megabyte animated GIF.

Last Updated: 26-Jun-2014

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About This Image

Click on image for larger version.


Meade 16in LX200 telescope operating at f/6.3

SBIG ST8E CCD camera with color filter wheel

The image was taken binned 2x2.

One of the frames (the first) is a little noisier (probably a cloud) but better focused (or steadier seeing).

Capturing 5 asteroids in a single frame is not typical. However, discovering one going through a frame when taking

 pictures from our telescope is fairly common when imaging near the ecliptic.

The "new discovery" never got a designation as it was not observed (followed-up) again. Many amateur

astronomers devote their lives to finding and following this solar system interlopers. But on the night that we

observed the "new discovery"- we may have been the first people in the world to have ever seen its feeble light!

Minimum credit line: Larry Robinson/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF