Asteroid Day / "Noche de Observación" Recap

June 30th. 2018


Solar Week 21-23, 2018 Noche de Observación / Asteroid Day - (06-30-2018)
Education June 30, 2018
The Asteroid Day Celebration @ AO - Special Event was celebrated last Saturday 30th at the Angel Ramos Foundation Science & Visitor Center (SVC) with a series of lectures offered by local scientists and guest speakers.

Noche de Observación / Asteroid Day - (06-30-2018)

"Radar Observations of Asteroids” - Lecture by Dr. Sean Marshall (Post Doc from the Planetary Sciences Group of the Arecibo Observatory)

Noche de Observación / Asteroid Day - (06-30-2018)

“Buscando vida extraterrestre con el Observatorio de Arecibo” - Lecture by Prof. Abel Méndez (University of Puerto Rico - Arecibo Campus)

Noche de Observación / Asteroid Day - (06-30-2018)

"The Transient Radio Sky” - Lecture by Dr. Nipuni Palliyaguru (Radio Astronomer from the Astronomy Group of the Arecibo Observatory)

Noche de Observación / Asteroid Day - (06-30-2018)

“Asteroides, meteores y meteoritos” - Lecture by Mr. Eddie Irizarry and Mr. Juan Gonzalez (Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe)

The SVC joined the 2018 Asteroid Day annual celebration. This global event was started by Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist and famed guitarist for the rock band QUEEN, in collaboration with Grigorij Richters, the director of a new film titled 51 Degrees North, along with Dr. Garik Israelian, Dr. Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and Rick Wakeman. They all contributed for the beginning of an asteroid awareness movement that led to the launch of Asteroid Day in 2015. As part of the Asteroid Day< celebration, the SVC had its traditional quarterly event, the great 'Noche de Observación, probably one of our visitor’s favorite activities. “Nights of Observations” is an event for the entire family, with conferences, educational stations and observations of astronomical objects through optical telescopes set up by the Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe. This time visitors had the chance to observe the following celestial objects: Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Omega Centauri, Messier 6 (Butterfly Cluster), Messier 7 (Ptolemy's Clustero), Messier 8 (Lagoon Nebula), Messier 20 (Trifid Nebula), Milky Way Arm, Albireo (Double Star).

The objective of this activity was to provide a unique educational experience for visitors of all ages and to motivate young students to pursue higher education careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM). Visitors had the chance to learn, firsthand from our speakers, what type of work scientists do at AO and how their efforts contribute to the study of our Universe and its interesting scientific ramifications and applications.

Members of the Planetary Studies team, b.k.a Planetary Radar team, were there to explain more about the importance of the planetary studies that are carried out at the Arecibo Observatory, especially for NASA's planetary defense programs.

Planetary defense refers to programs that monitor asteroids and comets that can come close to Earth, warns, and (if necessary) prevent potential impacts. The first step is to find these bodies, which is mainly done using optical and infrared telescopes. The vast majority of Near-Earth objects (NEOs) that enter Earth's atmosphere are small enough that they disintegrate before reaching the surface, but the ones larger than about 30 meters can survive the descent, causing damage around their impact sites. About 40 new near-Earth objects are discovered each week, and NASA-funded survey projects have found more than 95% of the known catalog of over 18,000 NEOs. More than 8000 Near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters are known, and over 90% of the ones larger than one kilometer have already been found.

"Every year the NASA-funded AO program observes dozens of NEAs, including some newly discovered objects. The Arecibo planetary radar system can measure the distance to an asteroid, typically billions of meters away, with a precision of hundreds of meters or better. It also can measure the speed of an asteroid, typically tens of kilometers per second, with a precision of millimeters per second." - Dr. Flaviane Venditti

After finding the NEOs, the next steps are tracking and characterization. This is where radar observations are vital. The focus of the Planetary Radar department at the Arecibo Observatory (AO) is to observe Near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), particularly those that are large and come close to Earth. Every year the NASA-funded AO program observes dozens of NEAs, including some newly discovered objects. The Arecibo planetary radar system can measure the distance to an asteroid, typically billions of meters away, with a precision of hundreds of meters or better. It also can measure the speed of an asteroid, typically tens of kilometers per second, with a precision of millimeters per second. In addition to being extremely valuable for accurate long-term predictions of an object's orbit, radar observations can also provide detailed physical characterization of an object's size, shape, rotation state, and surface properties.

Radio Astronomer Dr. Nipuni Palliyaguru, member of the Astronomy team, was also enthusiast to share her experience and explained more about the importance of the Astronomy studies that are carried out at the Arecibo Observatory.

Throughout our history, people have been curious about the changing sky, which we call the transient sky. Some of these, for example, supernova explosions and gamma-ray bursts are the most energetic events that occur in the Universe. And some of them involve exotic stars like neutron stars. So by studying transients, we get to learn new physics. Last year LIGO detected a binary neutron star merger event followed by transients lighting up the entire electromagnetic spectrum from Gamma rays all the way down to radio waves. Some radio transients we observe at Arecibo are pulsars and fast radio bursts.

"Last year LIGO detected a binary neutron star merger event followed by transients lighting up the entire electromagnetic spectrum from Gamma rays all the way down to radio waves. Some radio transients we observe at Arecibo are pulsars and fast radio bursts." - Dr. Nipuni Palliyaguru

We would also like to acknowledge the participation of Mr. Eddie Irizarry, and Mr. Juan González, who are the current leaders of "Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe". Their team brought optical telescopes so our visitors could have the opportunity to take a close look to the already mentioned celestial objects. Telescopes at the SVC Observation Deck

In addition to our local scientists and guest speakers, there was a group of people that contributed to the celebration of this week's special events. The extraordinary SVC staff, including Dr. Abniel Machín, Director of the SVC, Mrs. Yasmin Santiago (Supervisor), Mrs. Wanda Menendez (Administrative Assistant), Mrs. Sujeily Santiago (Project Director), Mr. Andrew M. Ortiz (Executive Director of the SVC & Co-PI of the Arecibo Observatory EPO), Mr. Ricardo Correa (Communications Officer), and the supporting staff including our dedicated tour guides. They did a great job encouraging our visitors to keep developing their curiosity; key element for learning and for the continuous development of science. Last but not least, special thanks to our security staff for their great support as well.


About Arecibo
The Arecibo Observatory Planetary Radar program is fully funded through grants to USRA from NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations program (Grants NNX12AF24G and NNX13AQ46G). The Planetary Radar Science group is also partnered with the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration node (USRA-Lunar and Planetary Institute/NASA-Johnson Space Center) of the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute program. The Arecibo Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by UCF, YEI and Universidad Metropolitana.

About NASA PDCO
NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office is responsible for finding, tracking and characterizing potentially hazardous asteroids and comets coming near Earth, issuing warnings about possible impacts, and assisting coordination of U.S. government response planning, should there be an actual impact threat.

Arecibo Media Contact
Ricardo Correa
Universidad Metropolitana (UMET)
787-878-2612 ext. 615
rcorrea@naic.edu

Technical Contact
Dr. Anne Virkki
Planetary Group Lead
avirkki@naic.edu

Technical Contact
Dr. Nipuni Palliyaguru
Astronomy Group Lead
npalliya@naic.edu

For more information about NASA Planetary Defense program please check out the following links:

Keywords: arecibo, observatory, asteroids, radio, telescope, FRB, fast, radio, burst, noche, observacion, radio, telescope, NASA, NEA, NEO, defense, planetary