FIU Students and faculty have monitored the progress of Comet Lovejoy 2014 through the 24" telescope atop the Stocker Astroscience center. Images in RGBL have been taken on 4 nights throughout December and January, some showing how the comet moves in a single night. (See Stocker Picture of the day page for images).
Then on January 26, dozens of FIU students, astronomy club members, and FIU Faculty Dr. Webb watched through the Celestron 11-inch telescope as asteroid 2004 BL86 whizzed through the sky. Although just a tiny smudge looking object, we know it is in excess of 1,800 feet (550 meters) wide and passed within three times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. We now know that this asteroid even has a Moon! Fortunately, this is the closest approaching big asteroid we know of until 2017.
While this was going on, undergraduate physics major Daniela Roberts had the new 24-inch telescope pointed out of the galaxy to a distant blazar called S5 0716+71. We were alerted that this Blazar was undergoing an outburst, i.e. it was brighter than normal. Several observatories around the world are watching it, and Daniela took about two dozen CCD images of it in different filters. She will reduce the data and send it off to our European collaborators including a former student who received his PhD here in 2013, Dr. Gopal Bhatta of the Astronomical Observatory of Jagiellonian University. From this data, and other data from telescopes around the world, we hope to get a better understanding of the physics taking place in these extremely energetic sources.
Not bad for a nights work in Miami!