NASA is looking to capture new images of Uranus – and it needs help from the general public.
The top boffins at the space agency are looking for amateur astronomers to help study both Uranus and Neptune ahead of its New Horizons craft going that way.
They want anyone with a camera and equipment decent enough to capture the two icy sky balls that are around five billion miles from Earth to take images that will work alongside what they capture from closer to them.
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Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said: “By combining the information New Horizons collects in space with data from telescopes on Earth, we can supplement and even strengthen our models to uncover the mysteries swirling in the atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune.
“Even from amateur astronomer telescopes as small as 16 inches, these complementary observations can be extremely important.
“With New Horizons and Hubble focused on the details of the planets' atmospheres and the transfer of heat from their rocky cores through their gaseous exteriors, observers on Earth can measure the distribution of bright features on Uranus or characterize any unusually bright features on Neptune. “They can also track those features much longer than either spacecraft.”
So, if you have 16 inches and fancy finding Uranus, all you need to do is use the coordinates 03 21 05.45 +18 06 26.6 at 6am UT on September 17 and take as many pictures as possible to help NASA's top boffins get as much data as possible.
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On an explainer website set up for the project, NASA details about observations of Uranus could include measuring the current “brightness distribution” across the planet, as well as the possible presence of “discrete clouds".
They added: “For Neptune, they could include characterizing unusually bright features that provide a better temporal baseline for – and even help interpret – the New Horizons and Hubble Space Telescope measurements.”
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