Happy New Year from ALPHA!

Happy New Year from the Capitol Tech ALPHA Observatory!  

As ALPHA begins a new observing campaign for the Spring 2023 term, the Astronautical Engineering Department would like to look back at the milestones that ALPHA met and our student’s amazing achievements using ALPHA during the Fall 2022 term. From August to November, ALPHA observed over a hundred unique asteroid targets including four comets and five unknown objects (the unknown objects will require follow-up observations to determine if they are asteroids or spacecrafts) and generated over 800GB worth of data. ALPHA monitored the asteroid “Cacus” as it made a close fly-by in early September, reaching a speed of 20.16 arcsec/min, making it the fastest object ALPHA has observed to date. ALPHA intern Ainsley Fitzhugh supported the Capitol STEM Challenge Day by providing students with hands-on activities exploring telescope operations and asteroid detection. And to close out the year, ALPHA began two observing campaigns from November 1st through 22nd: 1) To study the light curve of a unique variable star known as a “cataclysmic variable” and 2) to study the rotational period of a small asteroid called “Alma”. At the conclusion of the run, the team verified the rotation period of ALMA at 3.74 hours and captured the drop in brightness of variable star RW_Tri. In 2023, The ALPHA team plans on holding monthly Night with ALPHA events, so stay tuned on the university’s social media for more information!

Visit the new ALPHA webpage for past blogs, Night with ALPHA recordings, and new information regarding the observatory. 

ALPHA Sky Coverage Plot
Above: Sky coverage chart from August to November 2022


ALPHA Stacked Cacus Image 1-9-23
Above: A stacked image of asteroid Cacus during its closest approach.


GIF of Cacus closest approach and speed of 20 arcsec/min
Above: Cacus at its closest approach with an average speed of 20 arcsec/min


ALPHA star RW TRI 1-9-23
Above: The drop in brightness of variable star RW_TRI as the disk of material passes in-front of the star.


ALPHA Rotation Study of asteroid ALMA 1-9-23
Above: Rotation Study of asteroid ALMA from 11/18 to 11/23.