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March and April 2023 - Citizen Science Highlights

Asteroid Occultations: 
March and April are full of exciting occultations, when an asteroid passes in front of a distant star, briefly blocking that star’s light and revealing more about itself to onlookers. 

On March 24, asteroid 2009 WS60 will cast its shadow over all of Hawai’i! On April 8, the shadow of asteroid 5041 Theotes will pass over the UK and France. On April 14, an occultation by asteroid 2000 DL1 will be visible over a large swath of the Eastern United States. All of these are trojan asteroids, meaning they orbit with Jupiter along its journey around the sun. Another Jupiter trojan that will occult its star is asteroid Leucus, a target of NASA’s Lucy Mission. This occultation on April 30 will be visible to parts of California, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico. 

Observers can find more details on our Asteroids Missions page: https://www.unistellar.com/citizen-science/asteroid-occultations/predictions/

Maps of the occultations’ path. Anyone within the orange lines can observe the relevant occultation, when the asteroid will be passing in front of a distant star. 

Comets: 
Luckily for us, Comets C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRs) are still visible during the months of March and April. Comet C/2022 E3 stunned stargazers during its close approach on February 1st, when it reached its brightest. It is now on course to leave our Solar System entirely, so don’t miss humanity’s last chance to see this visitor from the outer edges of our planetary system.

Comet C/2017 K2 is also heading away from us Earthlings after its close approach in December. By gathering observations even now, observers can help scientists understand its evolution. 

Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann is also an interesting target for March and April, as it just had a recent outburst in late February! This means the comet suddenly brightened, likely because a large amount of its ices vaporized at once. Comet 29P outbursts often, so it is important for observers to watch in case they can catch one of these events and help astronomers understand why they happen. 

Observers can find more details on our Comets Missions page:
https://www.unistellar.com/citizen-science/comets/missions/

Planetary Defense:
April brings about a flyby of the asteroid 2012KY3. Even though this asteroid is potentially hazardous, meaning that it is large (>140m) and comes within 0.05 Earth-Sun distances to our planet, 2012KY3 does not pose any threat to us this spring. On April 13, the asteroid will make its close approach at 12 lunar distances away. Astronomers need more data on this faint asteroid so they can gather more intel on its shape and orbit.

Observers can find more details soon on our Planetary Defense Missions page: 
https://www.unistellar.com/citizen-science/planetary-defense/missions/

Exoplanets:
In April we have a rare occurrence: an exoplanet transit that will be visible over nearly the entire continental US - so you can tune into this exoplanet transit with friends and family, even if they are across the continent! The transit of exoplanet KPS-1b, a Jupiter-like exoplanet 857 light years from Earth, will be visible the night of April 16. This exoplanet was actually discovered using data taken by an amateur astronomer, reminding us all that all scientific contributions are important! 

Observers can find more details soon on our Exoplanets Missions page: 
https://www.unistellar.com/citizen-science/exoplanets/missions/


A map of the visibility of KPS-1b’s transit. Blue symbols mark where the transit will be visible from start to finish, orange symbols mark where part of the transit will be visible, and yellow symbols mark where the transit is visible but may be difficult to observe due to its location in the sky. 

Unistellar