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Minor Planet Astrometry

Faculty Supervisor:
Luke Schmidt
Year of Project Completion:
Minor Planet Astrometry


The academic year of 2002-03 is the inaugural year of the Mabee Observatory. The goal of this project is to determine the observational limits of the observatory. This will be done using minor planet astrometry to determine what level of precision can be reached when measuring the position of an astronomical body, as well as the magnitude limit of the observatory in its current configuation. In order to accomplish this it will be necessary to understand the theory behind astrometry, CCD imaging and image processing. The Mabee Observatory Meade LX200GPS telescope, SBIG CCD camera, along with software and asteroid databases provided by Project CLEA of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania and the Lowell Observatory of Flagstaff Arixona, will be used to obtain time series images of asteroids. The images will be stacked and compared to show the asteroid moving across the stationary star field. From this the asteroid's position and magnitude can be determined. Asteroid observations were made with the goal of producing results of sufficient quality for submission to the Minor Planet Center. Upon receipt of good observations the Minor Planet Center will use them to refine existing asteroid orbits and will issue Mabee Obseraory an observatory code, marking it as a permanent observing location cpable of producing precise and accurate results. This is done in hopes that the feasibility of future projects can be calculated and recommmendations for new equipment to expand and augment the current capabilities fo the observatory can be made.

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About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.