main lines of research and investigation

OALM send scientific reports under the International Astronomical Union (IAU) code 844. There are three CCD-equipped telescopes available for scientific imaging. To learn more about our instruments visit the following section:

OALM follows the scientific main lines of investigation of the Astronomy Department of the University's Faculty of Sciences, this is Solar System minor bodies, asteroids and comets.

Actually we are running several scientific programs that are listed as follow:

Survey and follow-up of NEOs

Asteroids are rocky bodies that can be classified into different types or populations regarding their physical and dynamical properties. NEO-type asteroids (Near Earth Object) are those with orbits that lie near or within the Earth's orbit.

It is very important to observe them in order to generate high quality orbits that allow us to predict eventual future (and very unlikely) collisions with Earth. Also we try to discover new asteroids in order to increase the population number and knowledge.

Survey of cometary activity

Comets are icy bodies that sublimate their volatiles when approaching the Sun. During this process the comet shows the distinctive gas tail. Sudden brightness changes allow us to learn about possible physical processes inside cometary nuclei, i.e. splittings.

This program allows to identify physical processes and the positive observation of activity in newly discovered asteroids allows to proper identification of cometary nature, mostly on those asteroids moving in cometary-like orbits.

Stellar occultations by TNOs

stellar occultation by asteroids in general, is a very short time event (minutes or seconds). It occurs when an asteroid passes in front of a relatively brigth star that will vanish in CCD images during the occultation. The occultation shadow prediction follows some path projected on Earth surface (like solar eclipses) and the time-measurements of disappearance/re-appearance of the star allows a direct measure of asteroid's size. This size value is independent from physical parameters such as albedo. In the case of Trans Neptunian Objects (TNOs), the size determination is very important but the occultation prediction is very uncertain.

This program allow us the observation of occultations in where all instruments are used in which one of them is a portable one, so it may be located at the shadow path increasing the probability of positive detection.

Asteroid Lightcurves

Asteroids are rocky bodies that move around the Sun in the Solar System. They also spin along its rotation axis, like the Earth does. The rotation period of the Earth is 24h or "1 earth day", but asteroid ones are different. By analyzing the light reflected by the asteroid a, so called lightcurve is plotted. The reflected light pattern will repeat in a few hours and there is when it is has completed one spin.

This program allows us to calculate rotation periods of asteroids by analyzing its lightcurve. Rotation periods are used to understand other physical properties and possible asteroid family identification.