Lord of the rings?
β Pictoris was one of the first planets to be directly imaged. Interestingly, it appears that this planet’s orbit is almost edge-on from our line of sight. The planet has an orbit similar to something between Jupiter and Saturn in our own system, with an orbital period of about 20 years, and it is also a large gas giant, many times bigger than Jupiter. In the coming months it may pass in front of it’s star, Pictoris. There is some evidence in the astronomical record that it may have dimmed with a complicated profile in the past, at times that line up well with the schedule of transits. These measurements were made before anyone had any idea that there was even a planet there, and certainly not when anyone was staring at it 24/7.
This potential transit provides a rare chance to see evidence of rings or moons. Pictoris is a bright star, so this effort is focusing on small telescopes and even a dedicated cubesat (a tiny form-factor satellites, about the size of a toaster oven). There is a lot of small-science technology demonstration going into several attempts to make the first discovery ever of rings around an exo-planet.
(Image Credit: ESO/A.-M. Lagrange et al.)
Join us at the observatory for a talk about the efforts to observe this once in a twenty year opportunity.
Observing with the SBO deck telescopes after the talk, weather permitting. Dress warm.
Being January, we will ask our current active members to cast a ballot for the 2018 officers. The names on the ballot are uncontested this year, but we will go through the formality as usual. I am delighted to have help keeping BASS going forward, and bringing our attendees this unique venue for science talks and telescope access.
Alert on parking at CU Boulder!
The University has made some changes to the classification of the parking lot near Sommer-Bausch Observatory. Lot 419 that we have used for many years is no longer free after 5pm. We recommend using lot 308. Lot 308 is just west of Fiske Planetarium, which is still free and unrestricted after 5pm. You can park on the eastern side of 308, including the rows near section 305 which is metered.