Central Texas amateur astronomers discover asteroid moon

Central Texas amateur astronomers discover asteroid moon
Posted at 10:46 PM, Jul 21, 2017
and last updated 2018-06-19 15:01:05-04

An official out-of-this world announcement is coming Saturday from a local, amateur astronomy observatory.

News Channel 25, however, had the chance to tell you Friday evening  

Central Texas Astronomical Society members, that use the Meyer Observatory in Clifton, said they discovered a moon that is orbiting an asteroid in March.

They found it when they were watching for a wink out on the star that the Amalthea asteroid was orbiting in the Gemini constellation on March 14. That's when an object, like an asteroid, passes in front of a star and blocks out its light for a time.

"We were looking for something not to happen and it happened and so we found something," said Dick Campbell, an astronomer with the Central Texas Astronomical Society.

At first Campbell said they thought they saw the asteroid pass,  but in the end they found out it was its moon.

"It is a team effort because we had to have analysts that looked at the video to make sure that what we were seeing was correct, other people to discount things that it might have been," Campbell said.

He said they still  have to get a professional observatory to confirm it, but they're pretty sure it's the first time amateur astronomers have discovered an asteroid's moon, it's one of only 240 ever recorded.

"It's certainly a big validation of having this observatory that can contribute to this science," Campbell said.

The Meyer Observatory is outside Clifton. Thanks to two families, the Turners and the Meyers, the Central Texas Astronomical Society has had the land, the observatory and the telescope since 2004.

"I think what we bring to Central Texas is the ability to come out and be around people who know a lot about it and point out things in the sky to look for and things they would never find on their own but they can find them if someone knows how to do it," said Aubrey Brickhouse, the Central Texas Astronomical Society president.

With that outreach, Brickhouse said he hopes they can inspire more people to look at the night sky, and maybe make another astronomical discovery.

The Central Texas Astronomical Society club members host two star parties a month, one for the public and one for club members. You can find those dates on their website.

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