One Comet for All: How Crowd-Sourced Astronomy Can Generate Detailed Pictures of the Comet ATLAS
Marseille and San Francisco, April 16, 2020. Thousands of miles apart, several users of Unistellar’s telescopes demonstrated the promising applications of Unistellar’s network of digital telescopes by delivering the first-of-its-kind crowd-sourced image of the Comet ATLAS.
Discovered in December, Comet ATLAS was expected to become the brightest comet of 2020, visible to the naked eye. However, several days ago, astronomers suspected that it split into multiple pieces and has been since then dimming rapidly: It was time for the Unistellar’s community of citizen astronomers to step in to collect a high-quality image of the last fireworks of this beautiful cosmic phenomenon.
On the night of Saturday April 11, in Belgium, Finland, France, Switzerland, Germany, UK and other countries, dozens of eVscope users gathered virtually at the same time, each setting up their Unistellar eVscope in their backyard or balcony to point and capture pictures of the dying comet.
Crowd-Sourcing the Comet ATLAS
While observing the comet through the eVscope’s eyepiece, they collected data that was sent to Unistellar’s servers to be combined and processed to create a “super image” which was made of the data from 40 users thus revealing the Comet ATLAS with a high level of colors and detail. Additional images coming from the USA and Canada are being processed and will be published soon.
“By combining observations from multiple users of our network, we have produced a much accurate observing record of the comet. Our analysis reveals that we can see dimmest objects, such as very faint stars in the background of the comet (up to magnitude 18)" explained Arnaud Malvache, Chief Technology Officer of Unistellar.
The Unistellar eVscope inaugurates a unique outer space observation experience, where users can take an active and decisive part in astronomy by observing together to create a large array of connected telescopes and share their data for a retrospective analysis.
These crowd-fueled events can also take the form of a playful and educative celebration as exemplified by a recent worldwide Messier Marathon event, when users observed most of the 110 galaxies, nebulae, and clusters indexed in the Messier Catalog, and seamlessly shared their observations live, achieving one of the most coveted goals of an amateur astronomer’s bucket list.
More Observation Campaigns to Come
These first attempts resonate as a celebration of Unistellar’s vision to make astronomy a live adventure where all users can take part, for fun, education, outreach, or even cutting-edge science. “Future campaigns could include for instance the observation of a new supernova and the detection of its host galaxy from a myriad of eyes witnessing together such an explosion several millions of light-years away, or observations of a potentially hazardous asteroids as it flies by our planet. There are more projects that we can imagine coming from this network of small, powerful and portable eVscopes” said Franck Marchis, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute and Chief Scientific Officer of Unistellar.
Unistellar ambitions to make astronomy an adventure where anyone can take part. Unistellar is the start-up behind the eVscope, a uniquely fun and easy-to-use digital telescope bringing the wonders of the Universe to life. In partnership with the SETI Institute, the Unistellar eVscope also helps people to contribute to important science discoveries.
The Unistellar eVscope received a CES Innovation Award in 2018 in the category Tech for a Better World and has been nominated for a SXSW 2019 Innovation Award. Thousands of digital telescopes have already been ordered, with a thousand already delivered, delighting customers with an unprecedented observing experience.
Ludovic Nachury, Head of Communication:
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