21 February 2017
In anticipation, a small robotic all sky monitor with two camera systems, the beta Pictoris b Ring project – bRing for short, will be dedicated to looking at beta Pictoris at the SA Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland, Northern Cape. The first light image of bRing proves that the instrument is ready for observations.
This year, the planet will move again in front of the star and pass almost directly between the star and us. If the planet has a ring system, we may be able to see the shadows of giant rings surrounding the planet, if and when they move into our line of sight.
The images taken by the cameras will be analysed on a set of computers inside bRing and will monitor any changes in the brightness of beta Pictoris. If a change in brightness is detected, this will allow the triggering of a host of observations using larger telescopes and more advanced instrumentation to study the details of the suspected ring system in-depth. Blaine Lomberg, UCT and SAAO PhD student, will trigger observations with the High Resolution Spectrograph on the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) to see if a transit of the ring system is detected to determine the composition of the rings
The bRing project, is funded by NOVA and Leiden University, enabled by a collaboration grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and National Research Foundation (NRF), the two funding institutions of South Africa and the Netherlands. Later in the year the second station will be installed in Australia led by astronomers from Rochester University.
The design, construction, installation and operation of bRing has been made possible by funding from NWO and NRF. South African astronomers will host the bRing instrument that was built by Leiden astronomers Matthew Kenworthy, Remko Stuik, John I. Bailey III and Patrick Dorval and hosted by the South African astronomer Steve Crawford and Blaine Lomberg of SAAO.
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Dr. Steve Crawford