For the more than 500,000 known asteroids that reside in orbits between Mars and Jupiter in the solar system, the vast majority of them have received scant attention and study and, thus, are ripe targets for investigation. Obtaining basic information about main-belt asteroids, such as their shapes, sizes, diameters, and rotation rates, provide crucial information for more advanced studies with the large professional astronomical observatories on the ground and in space. This is an area of solar system science where students and amateur astronomers can make consistent and valuable contributions to our understand of the solar system and its evolution.
This 12-week InStAR Research Seminar will provide students with the data, software, and background information to successfully derive an asteroid's light curve and rotation rate. Utilizing MPO Canopus, which can be used on PC computers, students will receive and learn about their astronomical data set, will learn how to evaluate the quality of their data, learn how to use Canopus, and produce the best quality light curve possible. In addition, students will use Canopus to estimate the rotation rate of their asteroid from the light curve.
The culmination of this student team-based exercise will be the drafting of a research paper detailing their results, which will be published later in an appropriate journal. Students will also receive instruction on scientific writing, the typical structure found in many research publications, and the scientific writing style. Students will write their research paper and receive feedback from the instructor through several iterations until they produce a quality, publishable product.