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Image Galleries: Adam Block's Images of the Sky: Perspectives of Asteroid Zelia



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Perspectives of Asteroid Zelia

Pure serendipity. This image shows the bond that amatuer astronomers tacitly uphold with connections and friendships around the world. In what other hobby could hobbists be examining the same object of interest simultaneously while being thousands of kilometers apart? Here Bill Patterson (and myself) were observing M55 (a southern globular cluster) from his observatory in California. At the same time Daniel Verschatse was observing the same field from Antilhue, Chile! The coordination of observations could not have been better executed had we tried to plan them ahead of time. Undoubtedly Bill, Daniel, and I each stood outside and stared at the same piece of sky with our eyes and with telescopes- though thousands of kilometers apart- aligned with precision not often contemplated in daily life.

When Daniel posted his image publicly, I noticed he had captured asteroid Zelia moving through his frame just as Bill and I had observed. I asked Daniel for his data and it turns out our observations were made in less than one minute of each other. Thus I combined pairs of images taken at approximately the same time to create the animation shown above. Due to our separation on the Earth, Zelia looks doubled from parallax. This shift of 8 arcseconds shows how close Zelia is to us (around 100,000,000 kilometers at the time these images were recorded). While parallax is a simple geometric effect, the doubling of Zelia really helps put things into perspective with regards to our place in the universe.

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