Join Cathy Olkin, Deputy Principal Investigator for NASA’s Lucy mission, Franck Marchis, Unistellar’s Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Planetary Astronomer at the SETI Institute, and citizen astronomers Rachel Knight and actor and musician Tim Russ on a chat about directly contributing to space exploration.
On May 9, 2021, five Unistellar citizen astronomers successfully contributed to the detection of Trojan asteroid Patroclus as it occulted (passed in front of) a star, momentarily blocking its light. Occultations are challenging to observe, as they are only briefly visible and from a limited part of the Earth. Patroclus’ shadow was traveling at 17.5 km/s along a path across the United States, from California to Wisconsin.
Later this year, the NASA Lucy spacecraft will launch and be the very first mission to study Trojan asteroids. Lucy will visit seven different Trojan asteroids during its mission, including the Patroclus binary system (and its companion Menoetius). Lucy will provide new insights into these primordial objects that formed the planets of our solar system, the origins of Earth, and perhaps even the formation of life. Citizen astronomers’ contributions, together with the campaign organized by Marc Buie of SWRI for NASA, will assist the Lucy spacecraft safely navigate as it flies by Patroclus binary system in 2033.
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