To chase a star


Elisabeth Hall ’18

At approximately 9:34 pm the night of September 15, Convent of the Sacred Heart Astronomy Technician Mr. Rick Bria accurately timed an occultation between the star 2UCAC 39627390 and the asteroid Euterpe in the Mary Aloysia Hardey Observatory.
An occultation is an event where asteroids block distant stars in outer space, according to Asteroids vary in size and each one is unique. Euterpe is one of the brightest asteroids in space and is especially known for its large size; it is 77 miles long and 46 miles wide.
The asteroid Euterpe is large enough to completely occult the star 2UCAC 39627390, obscuring its light and preventing scientists from examinining the star. One way to see occultations is by stargazing or utilizing the facilities at the Mary Aloysia Hardey Observatory.

Elisabeth Hall '18
Elisabeth Hall ’18

Other observatories had technical problems or weather difficulties September 15. However, Mr. Bria was able to clearly see this occultation by using a special video camera called WATEC 910HX. According to Mr. Bria, this video camera helps scientists observe occultations, stars, and planets in low light situations. Not only does the machine adjust the lighting, but it also contains a video time inserter, which takes photographs periodically using Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites in space.
After obtaining the pictures and video recordings, Mr. Bria inserted the data into three different computer software systems. These systems enhanced the lighting so Mr. Bria could see the specific asteroid clearly.
To learn more about the occultation, Mr. Bria then sent the information to the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) using this technical equipment. According to, IOTA accumulates information from various observatories and research programs across the United States. IOTA hopes that through studying this data, scientists will achieve a new perspective on the science of astronomy.
Mr. Bria is expecting a positive result, which means there is a dip in the brightness of the star for this specific occultation. The astronomer says that the Euterpe occultation has a 95.8 percent probability of receiving a positive result. If it is positive, this occultation will help scientists learn more about the star 2UCAC 39627390 and the asteroid Euterpe.
Scientists accurately time each occultation and make new discoveries through extensive astronomical research. According to Mr. Bria, even though certain observations may seem small, they are the discoveries that help astronomers learn more about asteroids, stars, and the vast universe.
Although these type of discoveries are extremely beneficial to the Observatory, Mr. Bria’s main goal in observing outer space is building community through collaboration in scientific discovery. 
“It is hoped that our small and continuing contributions will result in a better understanding of something previously unknown,” Mr. Bria said. “But if not, the journey of learning, sharing, cooperating and persevering will be worth the effort.”
– Elisabeth Hall, Staff Writer