Unistellar’ asteroid program has recorded multiple positive detections since 2020, directly contributing to a better knowledge of these bodies: the blinking of the star, when occulted by an asteroid and recorded by an eVscope, provide valuable data so astronomers can find new information about trajectory, size, shape and composition.
As of April 2021, 259 observations of asteroid occultations have been achieved by our network. Among them, 34 positive detections of an asteroid occulting a star have been recorded by Unistellar’s citizen astronomers.
During the first year of this program, the Unistellar community has already achieved remarkable successes, thanks to the ease-of-use, the speed, and the light-collection capacity of the eVscope.
The network has for example detected occultations by the Orus and Leucus asteroids, two of the targets to be visited by NASA’s Lucy probe, helping guiding that mission towards these poorly known bodies.
With the growing size of the community, the collective force of the Unistellar network is delivering more and more results. In September 2020, two US-based citizen astronomers from our community detected an occultation by asteroid Begonia, revealing, after analysis by professional astronomers from the SETI Institute, our science partner, that its size was 20% bigger than expected. In February 2021, it is this time no less than five France-based citizen astronomers who, with other amateur astronomers, detected an occultation by asteroid Chaldea.
Unistellar is currently working with IOTA and EURASTER, groups of experienced shadow hunters, to include our results into their own database which will be used by professional astronomers to better understand the shape, size and environment of asteroids. In collaboration with Charles University and the SETI Institute, we are also developing our own database to store and extract realtime insights on those asteroids.
Stay tuned for more exciting asteroid news.