Charon Imaged by Amateur Astronomers

by Nancy Atkinson on October 30, 2008

Pluto and Charon.  Credit: Antonello Medugno and Daniele Gasparri

Pluto and Charon. Credit: Antonello Medugno and Daniele Gasparri

This past summer, a group of seven amateur astronomers from Italy worked on an observation campaign of Pluto, with hopes of capturing an image of its moon, Charon. “Imaging Charon is very difficult and nobody has spotted it with amateur equipment, so far,” said Daniele Gasparri, one of the members of the group. The team made several attempts, and finally, one member of the group, Antonello Medugno, took this interesting image. “After many calculations,” said Gasparri, “we are sure that this image shows clearly Pluto and Charon, for the first time with amateur equipment.” Comparing the image to the graphic which shows the position of Pluto and Charon on the same date, it’s obvious, they nailed it! This is quite a feat considering their equipment was an “amateur” 14-inch telescope! Also, as The Bad Astronomers points out, Charon wasn’t discovered until 1978, and then a 61-inch telescope was used!

Compare their image to one taken by Hubble:

Hubble image of Pluto and Charon.  Credit: NASA

Hubble image of Pluto and Charon. Credit: NASA

Not bad!!

Gasparri is an astronomy student, and a contributor to the Italian astronomy magazine Coelum. With the support of the magazine, he coordinated the effort to image Charon. Medugno used an 14″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, a Starlight Xpress SXV-H9 CCD camera and a R-IR passband filter.

The image was processed using the Lucy-Richardson Algorithm of the RAW image, composed of 21 frames of 6 seconds of exposure each, with a focal of 8900mm. “All data confirm the image: the magnitude, separation, and position angle,” said Gasparri. Nice work! Check out Gasparri’s website of more astronomical images he has taken.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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