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Schindler K.,University of Stuttgart | Schindler K.,NASA | Wolf J.,University of Stuttgart | Wolf J.,NASA | And 11 more authors.
Astronomy and Astrophysics | Year: 2017

Context. A stellar occultation by a trans-Neptunian object (TNO) provides an opportunity to probe the size and shape of these distant solar system bodies. In the past seven years, several occultations by TNOs have been observed, but mostly from a single location. Only very few TNOs have been sampled simultaneously from multiple locations. Sufficient data that enable a robust estimation of shadow size through an ellipse fit could only be obtained for two objects. Aims. We present the first observation of an occultation by the TNO 2007 UK126 on 15 November 2014, measured by three observers, one nearly on and two almost symmetrical to the shadow's centerline. This is the first multi-chord dataset obtained for a so-called detached object, a TNO subgroup with perihelion distances so large that the giant planets have likely not perturbed their orbits. We also revisit Herschel/PACS far-infrared data, applying a new reduction method to improve the accuracy of the measured fluxes. Combining both datasets allows us to comprehensively characterize 2007 UK126. Methods. We use error-in-variable regression to solve the non-linear problem of propagating timing errors into uncertainties of the ellipse parameters. Based on the shadow's size and a previously reported rotation period, we expect a shape of a Maclaurin spheroid and derive a geometrically plausible size range. To refine our size estimate of 2007 UK126, we model its thermal emission using a thermophysical model code. We conduct a parametric study to predict far-infrared fluxes and compare them to the Herschel/PACS measurements. Results. The favorable geometry of our occultation chords, combined with minimal dead-time imaging, and precise GPS time measurements, allow for an accurate estimation of the shadow size (best-fitting ellipse with axes 645.80 ± 5.68 km × 597.81 ± 12.74 km) and the visual geometric albedo (pV = 15.0 ± 1.6%). By combining our analyses of the occultation and the far-infrared data, we can constrain the effective diameter of 2007 UK126 to deff = 599-629 km. We conclude that subsolar surface temperatures are in the order of ≈ 50-55 K. © 2017 ESO.

Mousis O.,University of Franche Comte | Hueso R.,University of the Basque Country | Beaulieu J.-P.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Bouley S.,University Paris - Sud | And 58 more authors.
Experimental Astronomy | Year: 2014

Amateur contributions to professional publications have increased exponentially over the last decades in the field of planetary astronomy. Here we review the different domains of the field in which collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers are effective and regularly lead to scientific publications.We discuss the instruments, detectors, software and methodologies typically used by amateur astronomers to collect the scientific data in the different domains of interest. Amateur contributions to the monitoring of planets and interplanetary matter, characterization of asteroids and comets, as well as the determination of the physical properties of Kuiper Belt Objects and exoplanets are discussed. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

Sicardy B.,University Pierre and Marie Curie | Talbot J.,Occultation Section of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand RASNZ | Meza E.,University Pierre and Marie Curie | Camargo J.I.B.,Observatorio Nacional MCTI | And 72 more authors.
Astrophysical Journal Letters | Year: 2016

We present results from a multi-chord Pluto stellar occultation observed on 2015 June 29 from New Zealand and Australia. This occurred only two weeks before the NASA New Horizons flyby of the Pluto system and serves as a useful comparison between ground-based and space results. We find that Pluto's atmosphere is still expanding, with a significant pressure increase of 5 ± 2% since 2013 and a factor of almost three since 1988. This trend rules out, as of today, an atmospheric collapse associated with Pluto's recession from the Sun. A central flash, a rare occurrence, was observed from several sites in New Zealand. The flash shape and amplitude are compatible with a spherical and transparent atmospheric layer of roughly 3 km in thickness whose base lies at about 4 km above Pluto's surface, and where an average thermal gradient of about 5 K km-1 prevails. We discuss the possibility that small departures between the observed and modeled flash are caused by local topographic features (mountains) along Pluto's limb that block the stellar light. Finally, using two possible temperature profiles, and extrapolating our pressure profile from our deepest accessible level down to the surface, we obtain a possible range of 11.9-13.7 μbar for the surface pressure. © 2016. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

Durech J.,Charles University | Kaasalainen M.,Tampere University of Technology | Herald D.,International Occultation Timing Association IOTA | Dunham D.,KinetX, Inc | And 8 more authors.
Icarus | Year: 2011

Asteroid sizes can be directly measured by observing occultations of stars by asteroids. When there are enough observations across the path of the shadow, the asteroid's projected silhouette can be reconstructed. Asteroid shape models derived from photometry by the lightcurve inversion method enable us to predict the orientation of an asteroid for the time of occultation. By scaling the shape model to fit the occultation chords, we can determine the asteroid size with a relative accuracy of typically ∼10%. We combine shape and spin state models of 44 asteroids (14 of them are new or updated models) with the available occultation data to derive asteroid effective diameters. In many cases, occultations allow us to reject one of two possible pole solutions that were derived from photometry. We show that by combining results obtained from lightcurve inversion with occultation timings, we can obtain unique physical models of asteroids. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.

Buie M.W.,Southwest Research Institute | Olkin C.B.,Southwest Research Institute | Merline W.J.,Southwest Research Institute | Walsh K.J.,Southwest Research Institute | And 25 more authors.
Astronomical Journal | Year: 2015

We present results of a stellar occultation by the Jupiter Trojan asteroid Patroclus and its nearly equal size moon, Menoetius. The geocentric mid-time of the event was 2013 October 21 06:43:02 UT. Eleven sites out of 36 successfully recorded an occultation. Seven chords across Patroclus yielded an elliptical limb fit of 124.6 by 98.2 km. There were six chords across Menoetius that yielded an elliptical limb fit of 117.2 by 93.0 km. There were three sites that got chords on both objects. At the time of the occultation we measured a separation of 664.6 km (0.247 arcsec) and a position angle for Menoetius of 265.

Dunham D.W.,International Occultation Timing Association IOTA | Herald D.,IOTA | Preston S.,iota Computing | Timerson B.,IOTA | And 5 more authors.
Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union | Year: 2016

For 40 years, the sizes and shapes of many dozens of asteroids have been determined from observations of asteroidal occultations, and over a thousand high-precision positions of the asteroids relative to stars have been measured. Some of the first evidence for satellites of asteroids was obtained from the early efforts; now, the orbits and sizes of some satellites discovered by other means have been refined from occultation observations. Also, several close binary stars have been discovered, and the angular diameters of some stars have been measured from analysis of these observations. The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) coordinates this activity worldwide, from predicting and publicizing the events, to accurately timing the occultations from as many stations as possible, and publishing and archiving the observations. Copyright © 2016 International Astronomical Union.

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