Asteroids in Isolation online conference

  • On the 20st of April 2020, the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy, took part as a partner in the Citizen-Science IASC Project dedicated to students, a project supported by the International Astronomical Search Collaboration and the Astronomers without Borders organization. The meeting with the students and teachers as well as the presentations were moved online due to the current regulations of state's authorities concerning the ongoing pandemic.

  • The host of the video conference was Daniel Berteșteanu, enthusiastic astronomy promoter and a member of Bucharest Astroclub, who introduced the subject of the conference and the two speakers to the students and adults attending online this event.

  • The theme of the conference "Asteroids in Isolation" was addressed in the presentation given by our first speaker, Dr. Mirel Birlan, AIRA Senior Researcher I, who entered live from Paris, France. Being a Romanian scholar with a great scientific expertise in the field of asteroids research and author of many internationally published studies, Dr. Birlan covered in his presentation various aspects in this field, form general information adapted to the age group and knowledge level of the students, to giving very precise and useful answers to the questions he received form the public. His presentation started with an overview on some of the fundamental research challenges in astronomy such as the correct understanding of perspective in all measurements, from the way we define the celestial sphere, to dealing with distances in the Universe and understating time flow. Starting from some of the basics of any astronomical research, Dr. Birlan further discussed the way we observe asteroids on the night sky, the importance and particularities of their discovery over time and consequent research. As one of the professional astronomers who had effectively used the Prin-Merz telescope of AIRA, the largest refractory telescope in Romania, Dr. Birlan showed some of the techniques employed in the the past in order to identify and take photos of asteroids and the ways this procedure changed in the digital age of today. He also talked about the physical features and structure of different asteroids, like the one called "Romania" and the challenges of their research.

  • The second speaker of the event was Sorin Marin, Document Librarian at the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy. His professional background as a historian and former teacher, was reflected in the theme of his presentation, "Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy. Educational areas and science education". Sorin gave an overview to the online audience about the historical endeavor of the scientific and cultural patrimony of Bucharest Astronomical Observatory, from the time of Constantin Bozianu and price Alexander John Cuza, and of the architectural blueprints of Adolphe Engels, up to the museum preservation era of today for some areas. His presentation also underlined the wide range of possibilities offered by the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy to organize interesting non-formal education projects and activities.

  • Conference poster
    Scaled difference: Sun - Earth

    Different Education - Sun

    The Astronomical Institute and the Astronomia 21 organisation are contributing to #StayAtHome Covid19-related state. In the frame of “Școala altfel” – “A different type of learning”, on March 31, 2020, Diana Beșliu-Ionescu has presented “The Sun and its consequences on life” to a class of fourth grade students from ”Grigorie Ghica Voievod” Gymnasium School. Using Google Meet, available on the G Suite for education, students were able to follow our researcher’s presentation.

    They have learned about the Sun’s position relative to our Galaxy, its evolution and structure. The students were most impressed by the scaled difference between Sun and Earth sizes represented using a 60 cm diameter yoga ball and a very small metal marble. Students also watched high-resolution animation provided by DOT showing photospheric activity around an active region. The presentation described what is a solar cycle, which eruptive events may influence the Earth and produce geomagnetic storms. At the end students were told that their phones can show the space weather status using NASA/ESA’s Apps.

    Romanian astronomer helps unlock the mystery of "the golf ball asteroid" Pallas

    Dr. Mirel Birlan, researcher at Paris Observatory and the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy is part of a team of researchers that has looked up-close at the Pallas asteroid, the third largest object in the asteroid belt, to better understand its unusual tilted orbit. The team discovered that the surface of the asteroid is so cratered, that researchers dubbed it “the golf ball asteroid”. The research team believes that the craters are a consequence of a violent period of collision during its history and that this could also explain the unusual inclination of its orbit that has puzzled scientists for centuries.

    The Pallas asteroid is almost one-seventh the size of the Moon. For centuries, astronomers have noticed that the asteroid orbits along a significantly tilted track compared with the majority of objects in the asteroid belt. This inclination remained a mystery for a long time. Now a European team, led by principal investigator Pierre Vernazza from the Laboratoire d'Astrophyisque de Marseille in France, and including Dr. Mirel Birlan, obtained images of Pallas using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), an array of four telescopes, each with an 8-meter-wide mirror, situated in the mountains of Chile.

    The high resolution images show a very cratered surface of the asteroid. In addition, the researchers created a reconstructed 3D model of the shape of the asteroid, revealing a heavily cratered object on the poles, but also at the equatorial regions. The researchers identified 36 craters larger than 30 kilometres in diameter, covering more than 10% of its surface — proof that Pallas experienced a violent period of collision during its history, two to three times more intense than the one of other large asteroids like Ceres or Vesta. The heavily cratered surface explains also the preservation of its initial shape after the formation. This collisional period could also explain Pallas’ tilted orbit.

    The images of the asteroid have also revealed a bright spot on the surface of Pallas. The most probable explanation of this finding and its origin is that Pallas has large deposits of salts at its surface, most probably formed by a mixture of water and silicates. The investigations carried out by the European team have also led to the discovery of the Pallas family of asteroids, a cluster of small asteroids. Simulations of impacts with Pallas suggest that this family could be the result of a violent collision about 1.7 billion years ago by an object having a diameter between 20 km and 40 km. Asteroid 3200 Phaeton, identified as the source of the Geminids meteor shower, which is observed on Earth in December, is part of the Pallas family, and could provide clues to understanding the origin of the parent body, Pallas. Thus, observing meteors and collecting meteorites coming from Phaeton could partly solve the history of Pallas.

    The findings were published in Nature Astronomy https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-019-1007-5.

    VLT image of Pallas (Marsset et al., Nature Astronomy, 2020)
    Dr. Magda Stavinschi during her speech about Nicolae Donici

    International Astronomical Union celebrates the Romanian astronomer, Nicolae Donici

  • The Romanian Embassy in Paris in collaboration with the International Astronomical Union (IAU), organized a celebrating event for a great figure and a pioneer of the Romanian astronomy, Nicolae Donici. Among the guests who attended this event were Prof. Dr. Ewine Van Dishoeck, the President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), dr. Magda Stavinschi, honorary researcher at the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy, His Excellency Luca Niculescu, the Romanian Ambassador in France, scientists, diplomats and students.

  • Author of many essential books about the Romanian astronomy and science including one about the personality of Nicolae Donici, dr. Magda Stavinschi evocated for the participants his scientific achievements and contribution to the development of astronomy in Romania and abroad.

  • Among the speakers at the event, His Excellency Luca Niculescu, the Romanian Ambassador in France, underlined the fact that Romania became a member of the UAI in 1922, due to the actions undertaken by Nicolae Donici.

  • The President of the UAI, Prof. Dr. Ewine Van Dishoeck, presented the scientific role of Nicolae Donici in the middle of the great developments which happened worldwide in the last century of astronomy, since the foundation of the International Astronomical Union.

  • Nicolae Donici is one of the founders of modern Romanian astronomy. He was born in 1874 at Petricani, near Chişinău, in Bessarabia (east Moldova), a Romanian-speaking province occupied since 1812 by the Russian Empire. His scientific work began at the Imperial Academy in Sankt Petersburg and at Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory. In 1908, he built a personal observatory on his manor at Dubăsarii Vechi in Bessarabia. At the time, Nicolae Donici was one of the greatest scholars in the world specialized in solar observations. He was the first Romanian who became a member of the International Astronomical Union and due to him, Romania became one of the first members of this astronomical international association in 1922. In the same year, Nicolae Donici became a honorary member of the Romanian Academy.

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