Feed aggregator

Dust trapped on the lee side

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - September 17, 2017

A Piece of Mars: This 0.95×1 km (.59x.62 mi) scene shows the center of a small dune field. The dunes are shaped by three winds blowing from three different directions: from the west-southwest, east, and south. The north-facing slopes are slip faces made by the south wind, and most of them have bright patches on them that are probably accumulations of airfall dust. Whatever winds brought the dust, none have yet been able to remove it. I’d bet that one of the most recent winds to pick up sand on these dunes blew from the south, because those bright dust patches are still visible on those north-facing slopes, where they’d be protected from southerly winds. (HiRISE ESP_049481_1310, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona).

Seeing Pluto With Your Own Eyes From Your Backyard With Unistellar’s eVscope

Cosmic Diary Marchis - September 17, 2017

One of the biggest challenges in popular astronomy is finding specific objects in the night sky. Most nebulae, galaxies, and asteroids are invisible to the naked eye, and locating them in the immense vastness of space has frustrated people for centuries.

Picture taken with a cellphone in the eyepiece of the telescope. The green circle labels the position of Pluto, which is visible.

That’s why most amateur astronomers follow a common but frustrating path. They buy a telescope, look at the moon, a few bright stars, and five planets—and then just give up. After only a few months of use, those telescopes go up for sale on eBay or into the basement.

Unistellar is determined to change this. Our new eVscope’s Autonomous Field Detection (AFD) feature will allow novice astronomers to find noteworthy celestial objects without performing complicated alignment procedures. Thanks to AFD’s intelligent pointing and tracking, astronomers can spend more time observing and less time wondering what they’re looking at. You’ll always know exactly what you’re seeing.

You’ll know because the telescope will highlight and an object of interest and show important information about it. Here’s an example. This photo was taken by a smartphone held up to the eyepiece and clearly shows Pluto, identified and labeled using AFD. That little speck of light is indeed the tiny (2,300-km wide) dwarf planet located 4.9 billion km away from Earth. We should mention that this image was taken under far from ideal conditions: from downtown Marseille (a city of about a million people), at a very low elevation (20 degrees), and through a fence.

This is probably the first time anyone has ever used a small commercial telescope to find and identify Pluto. And as impressive as this is, it’s just the beginning. Because of its sensitivity, the eVscope can see more than 4,000 known small bodies in our solar system—everything from near-Earth objects to main-belt asteroids, to Jupiter-Trojan and Centaurs.

Thanks to Unistellar’s technology, amateur astronomers can explore our solar system in all its stupendous diversity, seeing objects as they rotate around the sun and as their brightness varies because of irregularities in their shape and changes in their distance from Earth.

Unistellar also hopes to bring the wonders of astronomy back to city dwellers, most of whom have lost touch with the wonders of the night sky. Many more objects—most far, far more wondrous and beautiful than Pluto—are now well within viewing range of casual astronomers. Comets, extra-galactic supernovae, fast near-Earth asteroids, and much more —they’re out there every night, just above you in the sky, and they’re inviting you to have a look. Take them up on that invitation and your life will never be the same.

Starfest in Central Park: Urban Astronomy for All

Cosmic Diary Marchis - September 15, 2017

Last week I traveled from San Francisco to New York City to attend Autumn Starfest, which is sponsored by the Amateur Astronomers Association (AAA) of New York. This star party’s most amazing feature is its location—right in the middle of Manhattan, in the magnificent Central Park! And after flying 2,600 miles (4,100 km), I was eager to show attendees that the Unistellar eVscope will let them see faint targets in the night sky—even the sky of this immense city, with all of its light and other forms of pollution.

And the great news is that the event, and our telescope, were a huge success.

The setup of Starfest in Central Park. It was obviously not a perfect dark sky for astronomy, but a beautiful summer evening for the public (credits: Ed Rojas, AAA.org)

Observations of M11 (the Wild Duck Cluster), M13 (the Hercules Globular Cluster) and M57 (the Ring Nebula) from Central Park, New York City using the Unistellar eVscope prototype (credits: F. Marchis, Unistellar)

The eVscope was just one of many on display. I counted about forty telescopes of all sizes and shapes—everything from large 50cm Dobson telescopes to simple, smaller Galileoscopes, each operated by an AAA volunteer. The sky was clear, with no clouds and no moon. Yes, there were immense, brightly illuminated buildings all around us, but it was obvious that this would be a great night for star-gazing.

Initially, our telescopes attracted bystanders who entered the park to enjoy one of the last nights of summer, and were wondering what this army of heteroclite telescopes was doing. Soon, they were delighted to have the chance to see the beautiful rings of Saturn, among other things. All around me I heard people saying “I can’t believe I just saw Saturn’s rings.” Even though we can easily find photos of these beautiful objects everywhere on the web, it’s still awe-inspiring to see them for yourself using a small telescope. A lot of us became astronomers the first time we saw this special, unforgettable sight.

Because Unistellar’s eVscope is designed to observe faint targets in the sky, I had to wait for dark to start observing. The number of visitors started growing significantly, as did their impatience, since they were wondering why I was not yet observing anything in this strange new telescope. I must admit that at that point I could see only a handful of stars in the sky and was not certain this would work, since this was definitely the most extreme urban astronomy I had ever done.

Finally, at 8:30 p.m., I pointed the telescope to our first target, M11, the Wild Duck Cluster in the constellation Scutum (The Shield). Despite intense light pollution, the eVscope’s enhanced vision technology allowed visitors to see hundreds of stars in the cluster, which is 6,200 light-years away. Many were struck by its color, which is a function of temperature. People quickly started gathering around the eVscope, asking questions about the technology and what we were observing while waiting patiently for a look. And while M11 impressed most of them, M13, our next target, was definitely the “star” of the show.

This, the Hercules Globular Cluster, is well known and composed of several hundred thousand stars 22,200 light-years away from us. It’s impressive to see its colorful, bright stars in the eyepiece, if only because most people, including most of our visitors, had never seen anything like it. In addition to being awed by its beauty, those stars, which formed almost simultaneously in the same cocoon 12 billion years ago, are the vivid reminder that our galaxy is huge and home to billions of stars. It is very likely that around some of those stars there are hospitable worlds, or planets like ours. We can’t say yet if life, and even simple microbial life, exists there, but as Carl Sagan said “The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.”

We concluded our observing with M57, the Ring Nebula. An invisible star in the constellation Lyra, it has entered in the last phase of its evolution and is dying. The star has ejected its upper envelope, which shines in different colors because of the gas that it is made of. This beautiful object entrances people because it is what our system will look like in several billion years. One day our sun will become a red giant and then a planetary nebula, which makes the Ring Nebulae a dramatic reminder that Earth and our solar system will not be here forever. Because Saturn had dipped below the horizon, several telescopes around us also pointed toward the Ring Nebula, but none of them revealed its true color or the details of its envelope.


Senior Astronomer Franck Marchis setting up the Unistellar eVscope prototype in preparation for the star party (credits: Kevin Dea)

The line around our telescope grew much longer, and I think about 120 people looked through it before the evening came to a close. It was obvious to me that they were delighted to enjoy astronomy so close to home, since living in this huge city had caused most of them to forget all about the stars. Their children were even more impressed, since many did not know that there were so many stars, and so many worlds, out there.

Unfortunately, like all good things, our star party had to end. Visitors left, telescopes were packed away, and the park went dark and silent. My last view was of the towers that ring the park, outshining the stars once again, and serving as both a jewel and a curse of our modern civilization. I went back to everyday, normal, and noisy New York and enjoyed it one more time before taking off for my home and my family in San Francisco.

Thank you New York! It was a joy to see the stars that fill your night sky, and meet many of the wonderful people who call you home.

Franck M.

Unistellar’s eVscope Successfully Finds, Images Asteroid Florence

Cosmic Diary Marchis - September 05, 2017

Last week, 5-km asteroid Florence paid Earth a visit—and, using the advanced features of Unistellar’s eVscope, we were able to observe it from a location just outside of San Francisco. This, our first attempt to image an asteroid using the eVscope’s Autonomous Field Detection (ADF) feature, was a huge success, as you can see in the image, which captures what we saw in the telescope’s eyepiece after just three minutes of observing.

Three-min observation of the asteroid (3122) Florence seen in the eyepiece of the eVscope prototype. (Credit: Unistellar)

Asteroid Florence is one of the largest near-earth asteroids (NEAs) yet identified. Shortly after its discovery in 1981 by my colleague Bobby Bus, astronomers realized that this was a very interesting object, roughly 4.4-km across, and with a highly reflective rocky surface.

This large asteroid passed by the Earth-Moon system on September 1. At its closest approach it was 4.4 million miles from Earth, so it presented no danger. But ephemeris predicted a visible magnitude of roughly 8, which is quite bright for an NEA.

Right after finishing an evening eVscope demo at the California Academy of Sciences, my student Clement Chalumeau and I raced over the Golden Gate Bridge to find a fog-free spot to image Florence. We parked close to Mount Tamalpais and set up our equipment near the road. We knew this left us at the mercy of car headlights; what we did not know was that this also put us in the path of smoke from a nearby a bushfire. And we were dealing with a waxing gibbous moon—clearly, not a great site for enjoying the stars, but we were there.

Star chart used to roughly find the location of Florence in the night sky (credit: Tony Dunn)

At 10:50 p.m., we pointed the eVscope in the general direction of constellation Delphinus, using a map provided by amateur astronomer Tony Dunn. For the first time, we activated AFD and, using instructions given in the eyepiece that are based on real-time coordinates of the asteroid and recognition of visible stars, we made our way toward the projected position of the asteroid. Five minutes later, at 10:55 p.m., we started collecting data using the eVscope’s Enhanced Vision capability. And a few seconds after that, I saw a tiny streak of light in the eyepiece and realized we had pinpointed Florence. Success!

Our observing station near Mount Tamalpais, was close to the road and in a smoke of a forest fire. Not perfect for astronomy… (credit: C. Chalumeau & F. Marchis)

We found Florence easily because it’s moving with respect to stars that remain point sources thanks to the tracking of the eVscope and because the asteroid is close to us and moving at a relative speed of ~25 arcmin by hour, after just twenty minutes of observing the dot of light became a line that covered half of the field of view. This left us with no doubt that we had found the fast NEA.

Asteroid Florence seen in the eyepiece after 20 min of observation (credit: F. Marchis)

This was not the first time the eVscope prototype has observed an asteroid. On April 19, asteroid 2014 JO25 was at its closest approach to Earth (which still left it five times farther than the moon). At 11 p.m., our team in Marseille, France, observed the 650m-diameter asteroid crossing Canes Venatici with a magnitude of 10.7. They did this even though AFD was not yet fully implemented in the prototype.

In the future, images of asteroids recorded by owners of Unistellar telescopes will be stored in a SETI Institute database, where they will be available for use by amateur astronomers and scientists. Our goal is to give both experts and laypeople the ability to extract valuable information about asteroids, including their orbit, approximate size, and spin period.

This is crucial because early characterization will help us determine if an asteroid might threaten life on Earth—and give us time to prevent a catastrophe by launching a mission to divert it. This is not just a dream: the Unistellar team attended the Planetary Defense conference in Tokyo, Japan in May 2017 to present our project and meet other scientists involved in this research.

Our dream here is as simple as it is crucial: give eVscope users the ability to observe the night sky as never before—while they contribute to science and to the defense of our planet and every living thing on it.

eVscope users will have the ability to observe the night sky as never before—while they contribute to science and to the defense of our planet and every living thing on it. (credit: C. Chalumeau & F. Marchis)

Leeward and poleward

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - September 05, 2017

A Piece of Mars: The sharp line in this 0.625×0.625 km (0.39×0.39 mi) scene is the crest of a long dune in Mars’ southern hemisphere. The sunlit side is also the lee side: the bright streaks are thin sand avalanches (grainflows) that formed when the wind blew too much sand over the crest from the other side. The dark side is completely different. It’s the side facing toward the south pole, and it’s covered in ripples and erosional gullies that are thought to form when winter ice blocks roll down the darker slopes. (HiRISE ESP_024304_1345, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona).


Cosmic Diary Marchis - September 04, 2017

2017年7月19日 – Mountain View, CA & Meyreuil, France: SETI研究所とフランスのスタートアップ企業 Unistellar社は、アマチュア天文学者に比類ない宇宙の展望と、最先端の科学に直接貢献する機会を与える新しい望遠鏡を商品化するための、新しいパートナーシップを締結しました。

Unistellarの新しいsVscope™ は、「Enhanced Vision」技術を採用し、このパートナーシップによりこれまでは提供することができなかった3つのユニークな特徴を持っています。

フランス・Baronnies Provençales からのUnistellar望遠鏡によるダンベル星雲 メシア27, 渦巻き銀河メシア51、鷲星雲メシア16の観測結果。この観測は、ユーザーが直接レンズで見ることも、後日SETI研究所のUnistellarデータベースのストレージから再生することもできます。

Enhanced Visionは、非常に暗い天体の光を蓄積し望遠鏡のアイピースに送り込むことで、極めてシャープでディティールに富む画像を作り出します。Enhanced Visionテクノロジーは、より口径の大きな望遠鏡に匹敵する集光力で、これまでアマチュア天文学者には手が届かなかった天体の、驚異的な光景をお届けします。

自律的視野検出 (AFD)はGPSにより、eVscopeは複雑なアライメントや高価な赤道義システムを必要とせずに、ピンポイントで興味のある天体を導入することができます。AFDのインテリジェントな指向とトラッキングのおかげで、初心者からエキスパートまで天文学者はより多くの時間観測に費やすことが可能になり、また正確に何か見ているかを知ることができます。このシステムはまた、数千万の天体のデータベースによりユーザーが観測しているどんな天体の名前も知らせることができます。


「これまでのハイエンドの望遠鏡は、主な4つの惑星を観測するには素晴らしいツールです。しかしながら、これまではより遠く暗い天体については、アマチュア天文学者には手が届かないものでした。」とUnistellar社CEOのLaurent Marfisi氏は言います。「私たちの望遠鏡は、アマチュア天文学に革命を起こし、これまでは本やオンライン上でしか見れなかった天体を、リアルタイムで見れるようにするものです。このコンパクトな4.5インチ望遠鏡で、冥王星よりも暗い天体を、1メートル望遠鏡に匹敵する感度で観測することができます。」

「私たちは、先進的なイメージング技術をアマチュア天文学にもたらし、グローバルな市民サイエンスによる新しい研究を可能にする、Unistellar社とのパートナーシップに興奮しています」とSETI研究所所長・CEO Bill Diamond氏は言います。「世界的な望遠鏡ネットワークで得られる画像は、自動的に私たちのデータベースにダウンロードされ、研究者による最新のマシンラーニングアルゴリズムを用いた新しい発見と新イベントの検出のための解析に用いられます」


SETI研究所のシニアサイエンティスト・Unistellar社チーフサイエンスオフィサーであるFranck Marchis氏は次のように興奮を共有しています。「Unistellar社のeVscopeは、天文学者が興味を持つ超新星爆発、地球に接近する小惑星や彗星などの、突発イベントの重要なデータを収集する、パワフルな新しい装置です。世界中にある望遠鏡による途切れることのない観測、彗星や超新星などの暗い天体を研究するために、アラートを出したり観測をコーディネートすることにより得られることは計り知れません」とMarchis氏は言います。「キャンペーンモードによるもう一つのエキサイティングな側面は、ユーザーがリアルタイムでデータを収集する現場に立ち会うことができるということなのです」


Unistellar SAS社について

Unistellarは、天文学をインタラクティブなものにするために、Enhanced Vision Telescope™の開発、光学・エレクトロニクス・そして特許のイメージプロセス技術を通してポピュラーな天文学に革命を起こしています。Unistellar社は完全に大衆向けの熱意に特化していますが、その技術は既に有名な研究所であるONERA(フランス宇宙航空機関)や、ドローンイメージングから注目を集めています。



Thanks to Dr. Takayuki Kotani for the translation in Japanese. The original english version is here.

左から右へ:Franck Marchis (CSO・SETI研究所天文学者), Arnaud (Chairman ・ CTO), Laurent (CEO) と、デモ用プロトタイプ (Aix-en-Provence, フランス、2017年6月)


Media Contacts:

SETI Institute

Rebecca McDonald
Director of Communications
Email: rmcdonald@seti.org
Phone: 650-960-4526

Laurent Marfisi
Email: press@unistellaroptics.com
+33 6 77 98 01 20

Science Contact:
Franck Marchis
Senior Astronomy at SETI Institute & CSO at Unistellar
Email: fmarchis@seti.org
Phone: +1 510 599 0604

Endless wind

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - August 28, 2017

A Piece of Mars: This 2.88×1.13 km (1.79×0.70 mi) scene shows quintessential Mars, with a 670 m diameter impact crater heavily modified by wind erosion. Both the crater floor and the surrounding terrain are covered by what is likely loosely-cemented dust. The texture is that of wind-eroded materials, but to make this texture that material must be fine-grained and uniform in cementation (except where punctuated by craters that are, in turn, also wind-eroded). I’ve never seen a texture like that on Earth. Check out the whole HiRISE image to see how extensive that texture is (and note that I’ve only shown it at half-scale here!) – it’s the dominant feature of this landscape for many hundreds of kilometers. This is in Daedalia Planum, high terrain just southwest of the Tharsis Montes, where equatorial easterly winds might be enhanced by nighttime downslope winds coming down Arsia Mons, the southernmost of the three volcanos (HiRISE ESP_017651_1670, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Wind and maybe water too

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - August 14, 2017

A Piece of Mars: Along the right side of this 0.5×0.5 km (0.31×0.31 mi) scene is the rim of a crater – the stripes are layers exposed (and then perhaps draped by falling ejecta) as the crater formed. To the left is the crater’s interior wall, dropping downward. Deep gullies have been eroded into the crater walls, probably by water, carrying sediment downslope. Rivers and landslides are generally great sources of sand-sized sediment, and this place is no exception. The sediment piled up downslope, and then the wind came along and sculpted it into beautiful cross-hatched patterns (click on the image to see full resolution). (HiRISE ESP_015984_1335, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Exhumed dunes!

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - August 07, 2017

A Piece of Mars: The large dunes in the middle of this 375×450 m (0.23×0.28 mi) scene run along a valley (the small dunes at top and bottom are on high ground). What’s amazing about this is that the ends of the large dunes extend into the valley walls. That is, they’re covered by the stuff in the valley walls. Usually dunes sit on top of all the other geologic structures, but not here. These dunes formed a long time ago. And then a lot of sediment piled on top of them – but without destroying them (which is what usually happens on Earth, so we don’t see this sort of thing here). And then those sediments were later eroded to make the 0.5 km wide valley, revealing the buried dunes. Look at all this geology we can do from space! (HiRISE ESP_018347_1660, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

SETI Institute-Unistellar parceira promete revolucionar a astronomia amadora

Cosmic Diary Marchis - August 03, 2017

19 de julho de 2017 -Mountain View, CA e Meyreuil, França: o Instituto SETI e a startup francesa Unistellar, anunciaram hoje uma parceria para comercializar um novo telescópio que promete oferecer uma visão incomparável do cosmos aos astrônomos amadores e oferecer a oportunidade de contribuir diretamente para ciência de ponta.

O novo eVscope™ da Unistellar aproveita a tecnologia de imagem “Enhanced Vision” e agora oferece três recursos únicos nunca antes oferecidos em um instrumento compacto de mercado de massa graças a esta parceria:

Observações de Dumbbell Nebula Messier 27, Whirlpool galaxy Messier 51 e Eagle Nebula Messier 16 usando um telescópio Unistellar do Observatoire des Baronnies Provençales, na França. Esta observação pode ser vista pelo usuário diretamente na lente e uma imagem pode ser gerada posteriormente para armazenamento na base de dados Unistellar no Instituto SETI.

O Enhanced Vision produz imagens extremamente nitidas e detalhadas de objetos astronômicos até mesmo fracos, acumulando a luz e projetando-a na ocular do telescópio. A tecnologia Enhanced Vision imita a capacidade de coleta de luz de telescópios de refletor significativamente maiores, oferecendo visões sem precedentes de objetos do céu noturno anteriormente inacessíveis aos astrônomos amadores.  

Detecção de campo autônomo (AFD) alimentado por GPS, permite que o eVscope identifique objetos celestiais de interesse sem procedimentos de alinhamento complicados ou montagens equatoriais caras. Graças ao apontar e rastrear inteligentes da AFD, astrônomos de novatos a especialistas, podem passar mais tempo observando e sempre sabendo exatamente o que estão olhando. Este sistema também pode nomear qualquer objeto que o usuário esteja observando, graças a uma base de dados de coordenadas de dezenas de milhões de objetos celestes.

 O modo Campanha , um recurso revolucionário e excitante desenvolvido no Instituto SETI, aproveita a tecnologia de imagem avançada do telescópio e permite que usuários em todo o mundo participem da observação de campanhas de imagem e coletam dados sobre objetos de especial interesse para pesquisadores. No modo Campanha, os dados da imagem são enviados automaticamente para um repositório de dados na sede do Instituto SETI no Vale do Silício. A comunidade científica internacional pode acessar volumes de dados de imagem sem precedentes para objetos específicos, de milhares de telescópios ao redor do mundo, em datas e horários diferentes. Isso, por sua vez, pode permitir novas descobertas e melhorar a nossa compreensão do universo que nos rodeia.

“Os telescópios clássicos de ponta são ferramentas maravilhosas para observar os quatro planetas principais. Mas eles geralmente são decepcionantes por ver objetos mais fracos e distantes, que permanecem inacessíveis aos astrônomos amadores “, disse Laurent Marfisi, CEO da Unistellar. “Nosso telescópio revolucionará a astronomia amadora ao permitir que as pessoas vejam em tempo real, objetos celestes que até agora só estavam disponíveis como imagens em livros ou on-line. Nosso telescópio compacto de 4,5 polegadas permite aos observadores ver objetos mais fracos do que Plutão e alcançar sensibilidade equivalente a um telescópio de um metro! “

 “Estamos extremamente empolgados em parceria com a Unistellar para trazer tecnologia de imagem avançada para astronomia amadora e, assim, permitir uma nova pesquisa impactante através da ciência cidadã global”, disse Bill Diamond, presidente e CEO do Instituto SETI. “As imagens coletadas da rede mundial de telescópios serão automaticamente baixadas em nosso banco de dados e analisadas por pesquisadores que usam os mais recentes algoritmos de aprendizado de máquina para facilitar novas descobertas e detectar novos eventos”.

O telescópio da Unistellar estará disponível no outono de 2017 para sua campanha de crowdsunding de pré-vendas

Franck Marchis, cientista sênior do Instituto SETI e diretor de ciência da Unistellar, compartilha essa emoção: “O eVscope da Unistellar é um novo e poderoso instrumento que pode gerar dados importantes sobre eventos transitórios de interesse para astrônomos, incluindo supernovas, asteróides próximos da Terra e Cometas. Há muito a ganhar com observações contínuas do céu noturno usando telescópios espalhados pelo globo e coordenando observações e enviando alertas aos usuários para estudar objetos fracos como cometas ou supernovas “, disse Marchis. “Outra característica emocionante do nosso modo de campanha, é que nossos usuários serão capazes de testemunhar os fenômenos em que estão coletando dados, em tempo real”, acrescentou Marfisi.

 Um protótipo do telescópio Unistellar foi entregue ao Instituto SETI para testar e desenvolver a rede de dados do Modo Campanha. Os astrônomos amadores terão a chance de ajudar a financiar o desenvolvimento do dispositivo comprando-o por menos de US $ 1000 em uma campanha de crowdfunding que será lançada no outono de 2017.


Sobre Unistellar SAS

A Unistellar está reinventando astronomia popular através do desenvolvimento do Enhanced Vision Telescope ™: uma combinação inteligente de tecnologia óptica, eletrônica e de processamento de imagem proprietária que visa tornar a astronomia interativa. A Unistellar está completamente dedicada à sua ambição popular, mas sua tecnologia já atraiu a atenção de instituições estabelecidas como ONERA (a agência aeroespacial francesa) e Drone Imaging.

 Sobre o Instituto SETI

A missão do Instituto SETI é explorar, compreender e explicar a origem e a natureza da vida no universo e aplicar o conhecimento adquirido para inspirar e orientar as gerações presentes e futuras. Nossos programas de pesquisa, educação e divulgação exploram a maravilha do universo e celebram a excitação da exploração e a alegria da descoberta para toda a humanidade.

Da esquerda para a direita: Franck Marchis (astrônomo CSO e SETI Institute), Arnaud (Presidente e CTO), Laurent (CEO) e o protótipo de demonstração mostrado em Aix-en-Provence, França, em junho de 2017

Translated by Luciana Fontes of EXOSS. Thanks! Obrigado!

Mars’ giant bubble wrap

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - July 31, 2017

A Piece of Mars: This 0.7×0.5 km (0.43x.31 mi) scene shows Mars’ giant yellow bubble wrap, with each “bubble” about 100 m across (seriously, don’t you want to pop them?). These are actually a type of dune called a “dome dune”, and they’re about as small as this type of martian dune can get. Dome dunes form where the wind blows from one main wind direction, but shifts a bit in direction (we call it a “wide unimodal distribution”). These are near the north pole, and at this time of year (early northern spring), they’re still covered in winter frost, with a light powdering of dust to make them yellow. You can see spots where the underlying dark sand is just beginning to show through as the sun sublimates the ice. (HiRISE, ESP_050886_2565, JPL/NASA/Univ. of Arizona).

Cross-strata or not?

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - July 25, 2017

A Piece of Mars: Sand dunes are one of the few sedimentary phenomena that leave behind layers that aren’t horizontal. They tend to have a characteristic lean to them (and we call them cross-strata). So when I see something that looks like tilted layers on Mars, I take notice. This 0.625×0.5 km (0.39×0.31 mi) scene shows a steep slope, the side of a narrow graben system called Sirenum Fossae. The cliff starts at the top where overhanging rocks make shadows, and it ends at the bottom where there are small dunes. Along the slope are many narrow gullies from where sediment has slid downslope. And if you look carefully (click to see the whole image), you’ll see small diagonal lines aligned from upper-right to lower-left.

So are those diagnoal lines the strata produced by ancient dunes? Probably not. I think not, mostly because you can still see those diagonal lines in the gully aprons near the bottom of the slope – and those gullies were made by stuff sliding down this steep graben slope, not dunes. Also, there are a few boulders on the slope that might have wind-tails behind them. If that’s what they are, then these diagonal lines in the graben wall were made by a wind blowing diagonally up the slope, scouring away material as it went.

So, probably not dunes. But still aeolian. And very cool.

(HiRISE ESP_050882_1430, NASA/JPL/Univ of Arizona)

Asociación de SETI Institute y Unistellar promete revolucionar astronomía amateur

Cosmic Diary Marchis - July 23, 2017

SETI Institute y organización francesa Unistellar, anunciaron una asociación para comercializar un nuevo telescopio que promete entregar imágenes sin paralelo del cosmo a los astrónomos amateurs y proporcionar la oportunidad de contribuir de forma directa a ciencia de punta.

Nuevo eVscope™ de Unistelar eleva la tecnología de imagen “visión mejorada”  y proporciona tres características únicas nunca antes incluidas en instrumentos compactos para el mercado masivo, gracias a esta asociación.

Observar la nebulosa Messier 27, la galaxia Remolino Messier 51 y la nebulosa del Águila Messier 16 usando el telescopio Unistellar desde el observatorio des Baronnies Provençales, en Francia. Esta imagen puede verse directamente en el lente y una imagen puede generarse posteriormente para almacenarse en la base de datos Unistellas en SETI Institute.

La “visión mejorada” (Enhance Vision) produce imágenes extremadamente precisas y detalladas de objetos astronómicos débiles al acumular su luz y proyectarla en el ocular del telescopio. La tecnología de “visión mejorada” imita la capacidad de recolección de luz de telescopios reflectores más grandes, por lo que entrega imágenes sin precedente de objetos del cielo nocturno que antes no eran accesibles a los astrónomos amateurs.

Detección de campo autónomo (AFD por sus siglas en inglés) apoyada por GPS permite a eVscope ubicar los objetos celestes de interés sin procedimientos complejos de alineación o monturas ecuatoriales caras. Gracias a la ubicación y rastreo inteligente de AFD, los astrónomos expertos y novicios, pueden pasar más tiempo observando y siempre saber con precisión qué es lo que están observando. El sistema también permite ver el nombre de cualquier objeto que el usuario esté observando, gracias a la base de datos de coordenadas de decenas de millones de objetos celestes.

El “Modo de Campaña” es una característica emocionante y revolucionara desarrollada en SETI Institute que toma ventaja de la avanzada tecnología de imagen de los telescopios y permite a los usuarios de todo el mundo participar en campañas de observación para recolectar datos e imágenes de objetos de especial interés para los investigadores. En el “Modo de Campaña”, la información de la imagen se envía de forma automática hacia un repositorio de datos en las oficinas principales de SETI Institute, en Silicon Valley, EEUU. La comunidad científica internacional puede entonces, acceder cantidades sin precedentes de datos de imágenes de objetos específicos, de miles de telescopios alrededor del mundo, en diferentes fechas y horarios. Esto permitirá realizar nuevos descubrimientos y mejorar nuestra comprensión del universo que nos rodea.

“Los telescopios clásicos de última tecnología son herramientas maravillosas para observar los cuatro planetas principales. Pero en general no son muy emocionantes para observar objetos más débiles y distantes, que siguen siendo inaccesibles para los astrónomos amateurs”, comentó Lauren Marfisi, Director Ejecutivo de Unistellar. “Nuestros telescopios revolucionarán la astronomía amateur al permitir a la gente observar en tiempo real, objetos celestes que hasta ahora sólo habían visto en libros o en Internet. Nuestro telescopio compacto de 4.5 pulgadas permite a los observadores ver objetos tan débiles como Plutón, ¡y lograr una sensibilidad equivalente a la de un telescopio de un metro!”.

“Estamos muy emocionados de asociarnos con Unistellar para brindar una avanzada tecnología de imagen a los astrónomos amateurs y permitir una impactante nueva área de investigación mediante ciencia ciudadana global”, comentó el presidente y director ejecutivo de SETI Institute, Bill Diamond. “Las imágenes recolectadas de la red mundial de telescopios, se descargarán automáticamente a nuestra base de datos y serán analizadas por los investigadores usando los más recientes algoritmos de aprendizaje automático, para facilitar nuevos descubrimientos ”.

El telescopio de Unistellar estará disponible en otoño de 2017 para su pre-venta en la campaña de crowdfunding.

Franck Marchis, Científico Senior de SETI Institute y Jefe de Ciencia en Unistellar comparte esta emoción: “eVscope de Unistellar es un nuevo y poderoso instrumento que puede generar información importante sobre eventos transitorios y de interés para los astrónomos, incluyendo supernovas, asteroides cercanos a la Tierra y cometas. Hay un gran beneficio al tener observaciones contínuas del cielo nocturno usando telescopios alrededor del mundo y al coordinar observaciones y enviar alertas para que los usuarios estudien objetos débiles como cometas y supernovas” comentó Marchis. “Otra característica interesante de nuestro “Modo de Campaña” es que los usuarios podrán atestiguar los fenómenos de los que están recolectando datos, en tiempo real”, agregó Marfisi.

Se ha entregado un prototipo del telescopio Unistellar a SETI Institute para probar y desarrollar la red de datos del “Modo de Campaña”. Astrónomos amateurs tendrán oportunidad de ayudar a financiar futuros desarrollos de este dispositivo al comprarlo por menos de $1000 USD en una campaña de crowdfunding que se lanzará en otoño de 2017.


Acerca de Unistellar SAS

Unistellar reinventa la astronomía popular mediante el desarrollo de Telescopio de Visión Mejorada (Enhanced Vision Telescope™): una innovadora combinación de óptica, electrónica y tecnología propietaria de procesamiento de imágenes, que busca hacer astronomía interactiva. Unistellar se dedica por completo a este objetivo popular, pero su tecnología ya ha llamado la atención de instituciones establecidas como ONERA (agencia aeroespacial francesa) y Drone Imaging.

Acerca de SETI Institute

La misión de SETI Institute es explorar, comprender y explicar el origen y naturaliza de la vida en el universo, y aplicar el conocimiento adquirido para inspirar y guiar generaciones presentes y futuras. Nuestros programas de investigación, educación y divulgación, exploran las maravillas del universo y la emoción de la exploración, así como el goce del descubrimiento para toda la humanidad.


De izquierda a derecha: Franck Marchis (CSO y astrónomo de SETI Institute), Arnaud (Presidente y| CTO), Laurent (CEO) y el prototipo de demostración mostrado en Aix-en-Provence, Francia, en junio 2017

SETI Institute-Unistellar Partnership Promises to Revolutionize Amateur Astronomy

Cosmic Diary Marchis - July 22, 2017

The SETI Institute and French startup Unistellar, announced a partnership today to commercialize a new telescope that promises to deliver an unparalleled view of the cosmos to amateur astronomers, and provide the opportunity to contribute directly to cutting-edge science.

Unistellar’s new eVscope™   leverages “Enhanced Vision” imaging technology and now provides three unique features never before offered in a compact mass-market instrument thanks to this partnership:

Observations of Dumbbell Nebula Messier 27, Whirlpool galaxy Messier 51 and the Eagle Nebula Messier 16 using a Unistellar telescope from Observatoire des Baronnies Provençales, France. This observation can be seen by the user directly in the lens and an image can later be generated for storage in the Unistellar database at the SETI Institute.

Enhanced Vision produces extremely sharp, detailed images of even faint astronomical objects by accumulating their light and projecting it into the telescope’s eyepiece. Enhanced Vision technology mimics the light gathering capability of significantly larger reflector telescopes, thus delivering unprecedented views of night-sky objects previously inaccessible to amateur astronomers.  

Autonomous Field Detection (AFD) powered by GPS, enables the eVscope to pinpoint celestial objects of interest without complicated alignment procedures or expensive equatorial mounts.  Thanks to AFD intelligent pointing and tracking, astronomers from novice to expert, can spend more time observing and always know precisely what they are looking at. This system is also able to name any object the user is observing, thanks to a coordinates database of tens of millions of celestial objects.

 Campaign Mode, a revolutionary and exciting feature developed at the SETI Institute, takes advantage of the telescope’s advanced imaging technology and allows users around the world to participate in observing campaigns to image and collect data on objects of special interest to researchers.  In Campaign Mode, image data is automatically sent to a data repository at the SETI Institute’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. The international scientific community can then access unprecedented volumes of image data for specific objects, from thousands of telescopes around the world, at different dates and times. This in turn, can enable new discoveries and enhance our understanding of the universe around us.

“Classical high-end telescopes are wonderful tools for observing the four main planets. But they are generally disappointing for viewing fainter and more distant objects, which remain inaccessible to amateur astronomers,” said Laurent Marfisi, Unistellar CEO. “Our telescope will revolutionize amateur astronomy by allowing people to see in real time, celestial objects that until now have only been available as images in books or online. Our compact 4.5-inch telescope allows observers to see objects fainter than Pluto and achieve sensitivity equivalent to a one-meter telescope!”

 “We are extremely excited to partner with Unistellar to bring advanced imaging technology to amateur astronomy and thus enable impactful new research through global citizen science,” said SETI Institute President and CEO Bill Diamond.  “Images collected from the worldwide network of telescopes will be automatically downloaded to our database and analyzed by researchers using the latest machine-learning algorithms to facilitate new discoveries and detect new events.”

Unistellar’s telescope will be available in Fall 2017 for its presales crowdfunding campaign

Franck Marchis, Senior Scientist at the SETI Institute and Chief Science Officer at Unistellar, shares that excitement: “Unistellar’s eVscope is a powerful new instrument that can generate important data about transient events of interest to astronomers, including supernovae, near-Earth asteroids, and comets. There is much to be gained from continuous observations of the night sky using telescopes spread around the globe, and by coordinating observations and sending alerts to users in order to study faint objects like comets or supernovae” said Marchis.  “Another exciting feature of our Campaign Mode, is that our users will be able to witness the phenomena they are collecting data for, in real time,” added Marfisi.

 A prototype of the Unistellar telescope has been delivered to the SETI Institute for testing and development of the Campaign Mode data network. Amateur astronomers will have a chance to help fund further development of the device by purchasing it for less than $1000 in a crowdfunding campaign set to launch in the Fall of 2017.


About Unistellar SAS

Unistellar is reinventing popular astronomy through the development of the Enhanced Vision Telescope™: a smart combination of optics, electronics, and proprietary image-processing technology that aims to make astronomy interactive. Unistellar is completely dedicated to its popular ambition, but its technology has already garnered attention from established institutions like ONERA (the French aerospace agency) and Drone Imaging.

 About SETI Institute

The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe and to apply the knowledge gained to inspire and guide present and future generations. Our research, education and outreach programs explore the wonder of the universe and celebrate the excitement of exploration and the joy of discovery for all humankind.

From left to right: Franck Marchis (CSO and SETI Institute astronomer), Arnaud (Chairman and CTO), Laurent (CEO) and the demo prototype shown at Aix-en-Provence, France in June 2017

Media Contacts:

SETI Institute

Rebecca McDonald
Director of Communications
Email: rmcdonald@seti.org
Phone: 650-960-4526

Laurent Marfisi
Email: press@unistellaroptics.com
+33 6 77 98 01 20

Science Contact:
Franck Marchis
Senior Astronomy at SETI Institute & CSO at Unistellar
Email: fmarchis@seti.org
Phone: +1 510 599 0604

L’institut SETI et Unistellar s’associent pour révolutionner l’Astronomie et la Science Citoyenne

Cosmic Diary Marchis - July 21, 2017

19 juillet 2017 Mountain View, Californie, Etats Unis et Meyreuil, France — L’Institut SETI et la start-up française Unistellar annoncent aujourd’hui un partenariat, dans le but de commercialiser un nouveau télescope offrant aux astronomes amateurs une qualité d’observation du ciel sans précédent, ainsi que l’opportunité de contribuer de façon déterminante aux dernières découvertes des astronomes professionnels.

Unistellar’s telescope will be available in Fall 2017 for its presales crowdfunding campaign.


L’eVscopeTM (Enhanced Vision Telescope) d’Unistellar atteint cet objectif grâce à trois fonctions qui n’ont jamais encore été rassemblées au sein d’un appareil compact et destiné au grand public:

La Vision Amplifiée, qui fournit des images exceptionnelles, fines et détaillées des objets astronomiques les plus lointains en accumulant la lumière et en la projetant directement dans l’oculaire du télescope. La technologie de la Vision Amplifiée remplace la capacité qu’ont les grands télescopes à accumuler la lumière, et fournit ainsi à l’oculaire de l’eVscope des images du ciel jusqu’à présent inaccessibles aux astronomes amateurs.

La Reconnaissance Automatique du Champ (RAC), accélérée par positionnement GPS, qui permet à l’eVscope de localiser les objets célestes à observer sans procédure d’alignement compliquée et sans onéreuse monture équatoriale. Grâce au guidage intelligent et au suivi automatique offerts par la RAC, l’astronome amateur, qu’il soit novice ou expert, passe plus de temps à observer et sait toujours précisément dans quelle direction il pointe. Cette technologie peut aussi nommer chaque objet présent dans le champ d’observation grâce à une base de données contenant les coordonnées de plusieurs dizaines de millions d’étoiles.

Et le Mode « Campagne d’Observation », une fonction révolutionnaire et passionnante développée avec l’Institut SETI. Il s’agit d’exploiter la technologie d’imagerie de l’eVscope pour proposer à ses utilisateurs, partout sur la planète, de participer à des campagnes d’observation de façon à collecter des données d’intérêt majeur pour les scientifiques. Une fois ce mode activé, les images du ciel collectées par les utilisateurs sont envoyées automatiquement sur une base de données située au siège de l’Institut SETI dans la Silicon Valley. La communauté scientifique internationale aura alors accès à un volume de données sans précèdent, provenant de milliers de télescopes répartis sur la planète, prises à des dates et à des heures différentes. Cela permettra de faire de nouvelles découvertes, et d’améliorer notre compréhension de l’univers qui nous entoure.

Observation of the Eagle Nebula Messier 16 using a Unistellar telescope from Observatoire des Baronnies Provençales, France. This observation can be seen by the user directly in the lens and an image can later be generated for storage in the Unistellar database at the SETI Institute

« Les télescopes haut-de-gamme conventionnels sont des outils extraordinaires pour admirer les quatre planètes principales, mais ils sont souvent limités pour observer les objets plus distants ou moins lumineux, qui restent hors d’atteinte pour les astronomes amateurs », constate Laurent Marfisi, co-fondateur d’Unistellar. « Nous pensons que notre télescope peut révolutionner l’astronomie amateur, car il permet aux gens d’observer à l’oculaire et en temps réel des objets du ciel qu’ils ne voient d’habitude que dans les livres ou sur Internet. Bien que très compact avec son diamètre de 114mm, notre télescope permet d’observer des objets moins lumineux que Pluton, et d’atteindre des sensibilités équivalentes à celle d’un télescope d’un mètre ! »

« Nous sommes extrêmement enthousiastes à l’idée de collaborer avec Unistellar afin d’apporter les dernières technologies d’imagerie à l’astronomie amateur et d’explorer de nouveaux domaines de recherche grâce à la science citoyenne ! » se réjouit Bill Diamond, président de l’Institut SETI. « Les images collectées par ce futur réseau mondial de télescopes seront automatiquement transférées sur nos bases de données et analysées par des chercheurs utilisant les derniers algorithmes de « machine learning » pour faciliter les découvertes de nouveaux objets célestes. »

Franck Marchis, chercheur à l’Institut SETI et responsable scientifique d’Unistellar, partage cet enthousiasme : « L’eVscope d’Unistellar est un nouvel instrument puissant, capable de fournir des données importantes sur les évènements transitoires d’intérêt pour les chercheurs, comme les supernovæ, les astéroïdes proches de la terre et les comètes. Nous avons beaucoup à gagner à observer le ciel de façon continue avec un réseau mondial de télescopes, et en coordonnant les observations en envoyant des alertes aux utilisateurs pour étudier des objets diffus comme les comètes et les supernovæ », selon Franck Marchis. « Un autre aspect révolutionnaire du Mode « Campagne d’Observation » est que les astronomes amateurs participants seront à la fois acteurs et témoins de la découverte scientifique qui découlera de leurs observations, et cela en temps réel » ajoute Laurent Marfisi.

Un prototype de l’eVscope a déjà été reçu par l’Institut SETI pour tester et enrichir le mode « Campagne d’Observation ». Les astronomes amateurs pourront aussi participer financièrement au développement de l’eVscope lors d’une campagne de financement participatif qui sera lancée en automne 2017. L’eVscope y sera proposé à moins de 1000€, et les livraisons sont prévues pour mi-2018. Il sera également exposé à l’IFA Berlin du 1er au 6 septembres 2017.

De gauche à droite: Franck Marchis (Directeur scientifique et Astronome professionnel à l’Institut SETI), Arnaud (Président et Directeur Technique), Laurent (Directeur Général), avec un prototype de démonstration à Aix-en-Provence en Juin 2017.

A propos de l’Institut SETI

La mission de l’Insitut SETI est d’explorer, de comprendre et d’expliquer l’origine et la nature de la vie dans l’univers, et d’exploiter ces connaissances dans le but d’aider les générations présentes et futures. Nos programmes de recherche, d’enseignement et de vulgarisation scientifique visent à explorer les mystères de l’univers, et à susciter l’enthousiasme du public pour la recherche et le plaisir de la découverte.


A propos d’Unistellar

Unistellar réinvente l’astronomie amateur à travers le développement du Télescope à Vision Amplifiée (Enhanced Vision TelescopeTM), qui combine optique, électronique et traitement d’images pour rendre l’observation du ciel plus belle, plus accessible et plus interactive. Rendre l’astronomie plus populaire auprès du grand public est le premier objectif d’Unistellar, mais la technologie embarquée dans ses télescopes a déjà attiré l’attention d’institutions reconnues comme l’ONERA, et vise d’autres applications comme l’imagerie par drones.


Contacts medias:

SETI Institute Rebecca McDonald Director of Communications Email: rmcdonald@seti.org Phone: +1 650-960-4526   Unistellar Laurent Marfisi Directeur Général Email: press@unistellaroptics.com +33 6 77 98 01 20   Contact scientifique Franck Marchis Senior Astronomy at SETI Institute & Directeur Scientifique d’Unistellar Email: fmarchis@seti.org Phone: +1 510-599-0604

Westward moving

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - July 17, 2017

A Piece of Mars: No great scientific insights today, just a really lovely view of bright TARs and some very dark sand in this 0.875×0.5 km (0.54×0.31 mi) scene. Only one major wind acts in this region, moving sediment toward the west. Jezero crater, a prime landing site candidate for the Mars 2020 rover, lies 50 km to the west, so some of the sand blown into that crater passed through this area at some point in the past. (HiRISE, ESP_050899_1985, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Experimenting with 3D views

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - July 13, 2017

A Piece of Mars: I often use JMARS to visualize Mars data sets, especially images. They’ve recently updated their 3D layer, allowing folks to make lovely vistas by overlaying DTMs with images. I’m new at this, but I’ll experiment and see what I can do to make nice views. Here’s a series of barchan dunes marching away from a tall stack of layers in Becquerel crater, with no vertical exaggeration. (HiRISE, DTEEC_045140_2015_044784_2015, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Reversing slip faces

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - July 10, 2017

A Piece of Mars: This 523×750 m (0.32×0.47 mi) scene shows a large dune. It’s quite colorful for some reason, although it’s partially false-color. What caught my eye is that the slip face on this dune has reversed direction, which is somewhat rare on Mars (but common on Earth). The main sand-moving wind blows from the right, forming a long avalanching slope (you can see long bright lines of grain fall slips at the lower center). But at some point a wind blew from the left, forming a small slip face in the opposite direction. Although many other wind directions have also help to build this dune, those two are the main winds apparent here. (HiRISE ESP_050887_2225, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

The real tetrahedrons of Mars

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - June 19, 2017

A Piece of Mars: The real tetrahedrons of Mars are dunes, built by winds blowing sand from more than one direction. This 0.5×0.5 km (0.31×0.31 mi) area shows a dune formed from two winds that are about 90 degrees apart: one blowing from the bottom and one blowing from the right. This makes the dune have two slip faces, which is a rare occurrence on Earth dunes. (Earth dunes are complicated by superposed secondary dunes that interfere with and obscure this pattern. Or if they’re small enough to not have those secondary dunes, then they are changing fast enough that one slip face will quickly erase the other. I’ve only ever seen two slip faces at once for very short periods in Earth dunes – they don’t last.) Here, the two winds have worked together to form a little spit of sand off to the upper left. The result is a 3-sided “pyramid”, with no advanced civilization required for its construction. (HiRISE ESP_050479_1360, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona).

The thinnest landslides

Cosmic Diary by Lori Fenton - June 15, 2017

A Piece of Mars: In the dustiest regions of Mars, steep slopes occasionally produce very thin avalanches of dust, revealing a darker surface under the top layer of dust. This shows one that is 610 m (0.38 mi) long, running from its tiny point of initiation near the top of the slope down to the bottom of the slope where accumulated landslides have slowly buried old windblown dunes (or TARs). These landslides occur every spring, and may be triggered by sublimation of small accumulations of winter ice, or perhaps by the wind. This one formed some time between May 7, 2012 and May 22, 2013, as it appeared between two successive images of this spot. It’s still there today, most recently imaged on May 5, 2017, slowly accumulating dust until it fades into the background with the rest of the slope. (HiRISE ESP_035307_2115, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)


Subscribe to SETI Institute aggregator