Subcategory: Astronomy and Astrophysics
Kaheem Walters - University of the Virgin Islands
The topic of my research project is to track asteroids and determine if the path they are on will lead to a collision with Earth or satellites and space stations orbiting the Earth. In the event of discovering an asteroid that will crash into Earth, the information can be passed on to professionals to establish a plan that will hopefully save the planet and its inhabitants. To do this, I am writing a python programming code with the help of my mentor, Dr. Antonino Cucchiara. To write a python code capable of doing so, I will import and use python packages such as the Pyephem package, Numpy package, Astropy package and Matplotlib package. To run and test the code created, I will use a list of minor planets (asteroids) that have already been identified, catalogued, and posted on the Minor Planet Center website. Out of the18,000 minor planets within the list, the objects we are interested in are those of specific altitude and magnitude, and the time at which they will be visible from the Etelman Observatory here in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Virgin Island Robotic Telescope will then be used to determine the exact position and ultimately provide stringent constraints on the orbital properties of these objects, including their future trajectories. At the end of July, the code was fully functional and produced a list of 13 asteroids out of the 18,000 that meet the requirements. After the test run was successful, a list of 13 NEO asteroids gathered from NEO Earth Close Approaches page on NASA’s website was created and tested. One of the 13 minor planets from the new list met the criteria within the python code. Since there is little known about the asteroid, it will be observed to gather more information. With the python code, astronomers and physicist will be able to use the predictions to further study the trajectory of desired minor planets and newly discovered asteroids that require more observations. When a considerable list of observable objects from the Virgin Islands is created, we will use the VIRT at the Etelman Observatory. Once the asteroid is identified we will submit the exact location to the Minor Planet Center list, so that better orbital parameters can be calculated. This “future work” will be done in Fall 2018 and is part of Etelman Observatory main science goals. References: Craig Rhodes, B. (2008). Pyephem. Retrieved June 06, 2018, from http://rhodesmill.org/pyephem/index.html. Downey, E. C. (2015). XEphem Reference Manual. Retrieved June 10, 2018, from http://www.clearskyinstitute.com/xephem/help/xephem.html#mozTocId468501 (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2018, from https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/ (n.d.).Retrieved June 10, 2018, from https://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/Ephemerides/Unusual/Soft03Unusual.txt S., & M. (2011, December 15). Coordinate Systems. Retrieved June 06, 2018, from https://dept.astro.lsa.umich.edu/resources/ugactivities/Labs/coords/
Funder Acknowledgement(s): Funding was provided by the DoD Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (Grant #W911NF-17-1-0503)
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Antonino Cucchiara, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: I created the python code and used it to determine which asteroids will be observable from the Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope. I also formatted the second list of asteroids gathered from NASA's NEO Earth Close Approaches website.