The Sciences

"Amateur" astronomers capture Jupiter, Charon

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitOct 29, 2008 2:50 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

The definition of a professional astronomer is one who gets paid to do it. But the difference between that and an amateur, who technically does it for fun, is getting hard to tell. Take this image of Pluto and its moon Charon taken by so-called amateur astronomers Antonello Medugno and Daniele Gasparri from Italy:

The bright blob on the right is Pluto, and Charon is on the left. The separation is 0.7 arcseconds, an incredible feat (the Moon is 2500 times wider than this in the sky). This is definitely Charon; it's at the correct position, separation, and brightness. They nailed it. Mind you, Charon wasn't even discovered until 1978 by a pro, using a 61 inch telescope! The image above was using a 14" telescope, and is in fact much better than the discovery image. In 30 years of progress, a much smaller commercial telescope can do better than a professional setup could. Wow. Also, an amateur used an iPhone (and a telescope) to capture this image of Jupiter:

Sure, it's not the best, but c'mon, it was taken with an iPhone. We live in the future. Still no flying cars, but we live in the future.

Edited to add: I did not include any of the technical descriptions of the Charon image, and I should have.

Equipment: Meade L200GPS 14" at f/25, with a Starlight Xpress SXV-H9 CCD Image scale: 0.15"/pixel, unbinned Exposure: 6 seconds/frame Filters: R +Ir (Baader) Final image: 21 frames, median combined, deconvolved to enhance sharpness At the time, Pluto was 31 AU away, at a mag of 13.9 and Charon was mag 15.5. The images were taken on August 19, 2008.

Charon image credit: Coelum Astronomia, Daniele Gasparri, and Antonello Medugno Jupiter credit: Mac Observer. Tip o' the dew shield to Davide De Martin and Anthony Bossuyt.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2022 Kalmbach Media Co.