Asteroid 357439, 2004 BL86, discovered in 2004 by LINEAR (Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research), passed within 1.2 million km of the Earth (about 3.1 times the distance of the Moon) on 2015 Jan 26, with closest approach at 16:19 UTC. Having a diameter of about 500m, 2004 BL86 is largest known asteroid to come this close to Earth until August 7, 2027 (when asteroid 1999 AN10 will come within about 1 Moon distance).
The flyby was observed at ULO by Steve Fossey and Thomas Schlichter, using a C14 telescope and
SBIG STL-6303E CCD camera; Ian Howarth compiled the data frames into the short video shown above.
Field of view is approximately 18x24 arcminutes; North is up, East to the left.
[Full-resolution mp4 version; 53Mb]
The first spectrum of an astronomical source obtained through a fibre feed was taken on 2013 July 11. The observation, of Venus, was obtained using a fibre link from the C14E to the Shelyak Lhires III with an ST8XME camera. The fibre coupling was developed by PhD student Nic Clarke, under the supervision of Bruce Swinyard, with assistance during commissioning from Steve Fossey, Mick Pearson, Andre Munoz, and Nicola Baccichet.
The close historical association between astronomy and timekeeping has been recognized by an invitation of affiliation from the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers
The affiliation was formally marked on 2013 January 24 at ULO, when the Master of the Clockmakers, Mark Elliott, presented the Clockmakers' Shield of Arms to the President and Provost of UCL, Professor Malcolm Grant. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.
The Observatory is developing the capability of operating suitable telescopes from off-site, a process initially made possible by a CIF grant allowing purchase of equipment enabling a dome to track the motion of the telescope it houses. Over the summer months a concerted and continuing effort has been made by Observatory staff to tackle remaining mechanical and software challenges, with undergraduate involvement made possible through bursaries provided by the Nuffield Trust and the Royal Astronomical Society.
A milestone in this process was passed on 2010 July 21, when student Jakub Bochinski controlled a C14 telescope and its CCD camera from his home in central London, using a web-based interface – the first remote observation to be conducted at ULO. As well as calibration frames, a set of 'first light' images of the planetary nebula M27, shown below, was obtained.
A number of operational matters have yet to be resolved, and routine remote observing still lies well ahead. Nonetheless, the success of this experiment, attributable to the combined efforts of all the technical and academic staff at the Observatory, demonstrates great promise for future progress in this direction.
Although we were set up for a live webcast of Jupiter imaging through the BBC, weather foiled our plans.
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