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MBO member Jacquie Milner co-author on Pluto occultation paper!

Back in June 2015 our member Jacquie Milner spoke to MBO about "An Introduction to Observing Occultations" and in that presentation mentioned that she was participating in a ground based campaign to observe the occultation of a star by Pluto to characterise its atmosphere. 7 months on from that and there is now a paper from that work published on which she is a co-author!

Jacquie writes:

There was an international campaign to observe an occultation of a star by Pluto two weeks before New Horizons flew past Pluto on 29 June 2015. This was important to see how Pluto’s atmosphere looked from Earth at more or less the same time that New Horizons would be seeing it for comparison, and also to get some idea what might be happening there just before the spacecraft arrived. The path of the occultation was over New Zealand and Tasmania, and professional astronomers from around the world came down to our region to record this event. Amateur astronomers who regularly observed occultations were also observing and their results were combined with professional efforts to provide the result in the paper recently published below. Basically Pluto’s atmosphere is not collapsing as some thought it might, from it moving away from the Sun in its orbit and cooling down, but the occultation result shows it is expanding. Here in Melbourne I just caught the top 15% of the atmosphere, and the lead astronomer on the paper told me that my resulting light curve, while not detailed due to my relative small 20cm telescope, still fits well within their model.

It’s been a big thrill to be part of the campaign and to be able to provide useful data that supports the final result. Astronomy is one of the few areas of science where amateurs can work closely with professionals and produce real science and I encourage anyone who thinks that sounds like a good idea to make the leap and get involved in the area of astronomy of their choice, be it variable stars, planet imaging, asteroid photometry or astrometry, supernova searching, comet searching, exoplanets, meteors or…whatever it is, just start! This was a 10 year journey for me and while it’s not the first occultation paper I’ve contributed to it’s the most important one so far. I hope there will be more in the future, too!

The preprint of the paper is available on the arxiv.org preprint server under the title "Pluto's atmosphere from the 29 June 2015 ground-based stellar occultation at the time of the New Horizons flyby".

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Presidents Message: MBO "Young Prime" Science Prize at Emerald Secondary College

Dear Mount Burnettavistas,

I am very pleased to write about a plan that has come to fruition. About six months ago one of our newest members donated a sum of money to fund a science prize at one of the local schools. So this week my colleague Heike will be presenting the first “Young Prime” award to an Emerald Secondary student. Thank you Mia Cobb for funding this prize and for having the confidence that MBO would look after the request.

The science prize is an example of how MBO is having an impact in our community. We have been building our connection with Emerald Secondary College for some time now. But there are other schools, and other community groups. If you have an idea (no matter how crazy) and you would like to see us run something in or for your school then please let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we promise to follow it up.

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Christmas Hamper Raffle 2015

At last nights AGM the 2015 Christmas Hamper Raffle was announced by Marilyn, this year in support of our new dome project.

Tickets are just $2 each for a chance to win this great hamper, and you can get them directly from Marilyn at Members Nights every Friday.

Donations can also be made directly, see the project announcement for more details.

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Last call for votes for IAU NameExoWorlds competition

The International Astronomical Union voting for their NameExoWorlds competition that MBO is participating in will be closing this weekend (MBO solicited suggestions for entries from members of the public as part of National Science Week 2014).

In June Mount Burnett Observatory selected the names "Ezu" and "Heroicos" from those suggestions as its submission to the competition for the star xi Aquilae and its exoplanet xi Aquilae b, and you can vote for them here.

xi aquilae v2