July 18, 2019

17.01.11: Tracking Vestoids.

The American Association of Variable Star Observers & NASA wants YOU to assist them with the up and coming Dawn mission. Specifically, scientists are looking to characterize “Vestoids,” or Vesta-like asteroids in preparation for Dawn’s exploration of the real thing in July of this year. To this end, the AAVSO has selected three targets for amateurs to observe; 1981 Midas (1973 EA), 4688 (1980 WF) and 137052 (1998 VO33). These Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are all thought to be very similar to the asteroid Vesta, and brightness estimates may constrain sizes and compositions.

In fact, astronomers suspect that these three may be fragments of Vesta from an ancient impact. But if these asteroids don’t ring a bell, that’s because they’re all well below magnitude +15, i.e. very faint. The three will only be reasonable targets for 10” scopes and larger under dark skies. The AAVSO is looking for photometric measurements of brightness within 0.1 magnitudes, well within an advanced amateur’s capabilities. The coordinates for these asteroids are listed in the AAVSO’s alert notice 429, and all three asteroids are favorably placed for observations until early March 2011.

Dawn launched in September 2007 on a unique mission. Passing Mars for a gravity assist in February 2009, DAWN will enter a one year orbit around the asteroid Vesta this summer. In mid-2012, DAWN will then perform a historic first; using its innovative ion-drive, DAWN will break orbit and head for another asteroid, Ceres, in 2015. Just what do these bizarre worldlets look like? If you’ve got a giant light bucket idling in the backyard, now is the time to help the AAVSO and NASA make history!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] right here on the Earth. Vesta also lends its namesake to a population of related V-type asteroids, known as Vestoids. The Vesta family of asteroids. Image credit: Wikimedia [...]

  2. [...] right here on the Earth. Vesta also lends its namesake to a population of related V-type asteroids, known as Vestoids.All cosmic thoughts to ponder as you track down this worldlet during these cold February evenings. [...]

  3. [...] right here on the Earth. Vesta also lends its namesake to a population of related V-type asteroids, known as Vestoids.All cosmic thoughts to ponder as you track down this worldlet during these cold February evenings. [...]

  4. [...] And did you know: we actually have identified samples of Vesta to study, right here on Earth. Vesta sustained a massive impact about a billion years ago, raining debris through the inner solar system. Dawn chronicled the resulting Rheasilvia impact basin on Vesta’s south pole, and asteroids such as 1981 Midas match the spectral composition of Vesta and are collectively known as “Vestoids”. [...]

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