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[Exclusive interview] Space exploration at THE NBO Observatory in the UK
2020 / 12 / 16

Northolt Branch Observatories is a observatory in London, England, located in The United Kingdom, which is renowned for its outstanding astronomical Observatories.They are also important users of the QHY42 Science camera. In recent years, they have used the QHY camera to help identify about 200 neoearth asteroids and make more than 6,500 measurements of small objects in the solar system, and these projects are still ongoing.Recently, we had the honor to have an exclusive interview with NBO, let's reveal their "behind the scenes"!What you may not know about the Science Camera series (1) : QHY42

QHYCCD: Congratulations on your excellent results with THE QHY camera. First of all, let's introduce ourselves to our Chinese friends!Guy: Hi, I'm Guy Wells FRAS, an astronomer in London, UK.I am working with my colleague Daniel Bamberger at Northolt Branch Observatories.We are committed to observing small objects, asteroids and comets in the solar system, but the main focus is on tracking near-Earth Asteroids (NEA) and submitting astrometric/photometric data to the Asteroid Center.This could help us understand where near-Earth asteroids are heading in the future.

QHYCCD: I am very excited about the results you have achieved. What makes me curious is why you chose to work in the Observatory.What do you think is the most interesting and meaningful part of your job?

Guy: We love astronomy, and I have basic astronomy knowledge myself.After spending a few years photographing the major planets, star clusters and nebulae, I found myself interested in the dwarf planet Pluto.I observed a change in its position in the night sky over several days, which was very exciting to me.Then, I began to photograph other solar system small objects.It took me and my colleagues a few months to set up the Northolt Branch Observatory, the INTERNATIONAL Astronomical Union Z80.Every object we observe is different in some way.Things like orbit, size, speed are all different.Sometimes we work for years to become the first observatory to observe an asteroid.All the astronomical objects we observed were very interesting!QHYCCD: Have you encountered any difficulties or challenges in your work?How did you overcome that?

Guy: We had a lot of problems in the beginning.Sometimes something goes wrong with the software, sometimes something goes wrong with the hardware.Later, we solved these problems together.Our original equipment was not optimized for astronomical measurements of asteroids, so we had difficulty observing even fairly bright objects.Now, we use a bigger telescope and a very sensitive QHY42 camera.Unfortunately, like most amateur asteroid observatories, we were underfunded, which slowed our progress.


AT2020plo © Northolt Branch Observatories

QHYCCD: Please talk about the charm of astronomical photography.

Guy: Instead of doing astronomical photography, we use cameras to collect astronomical and photometric data.Having said that, when we are tracking some comets, such as C / 2020 F3 (NEOWISE), we can get very good images in a short time.This is due to the use of a HIGH sensitivity sensor QHY camera.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

 Northolt Branch Observatories

QHYCCD: What is the reason why you choose QHYCCD camera?

Guy: We chose the QHY camera because of some criteria.Ninety-five percent quantum efficiency is ideal for capturing asteroids.The 2 by 2 bin image allows our Ritchey-Chretien telescope to provide a 1 degree square view.In this way, the pixel ratio can be slightly larger than 2, which can perfectly meet our requirements.

QHYCCD: Which camera do you use? Please share with us the shooting results and experience!Guy: In 2018, we received the new QHY42 Science camera.QHY provided us with a lot of support to make sure everything went smoothly.With a constant stream of useful technical support and tweaks to the driver, we'll soon be able to use the new camera.Until now, we've helped identify about 200 neoearths and made more than 6,500 measurements of small objects in our solar system.During this time, we also became a member of the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN).

Near-Earth asteroid 2020 SX3

  Northolt Branch Observatories

QHYCCD: How do you think your work, or astronomy, will affect humanity?

Guy: We're just one of many professional, amateur asteroid observatories.Together, we're tracking near-Earth asteroids to see where they might go in the future.That would open up more possibilities for future generations to deal with asteroids that might affect Earth.

QHYCCD: Is there anything you'd like to say to astronomy fans?

Guy: There are many ways in which astronomy enthusiasts can contribute meaningfully to science.For example, measuring the position of asteroids can reduce the uncertainty of their movement, and measuring brightness can help determine the shape and occultation of asteroids.Astronomy enthusiasts can help in other ways, too.For example, supernovae can be found, luminosity curves can be obtained by observing newly discovered objects, variable stars can be detected by photometric methods, more beautiful objects like comets can be tracked, and changes can be observed and recorded as they approach perihelion and beyond.In short, as astronomy enthusiasts, we can help astronomy in many ways.Astrophotography is also a good way to show people the night sky.

020 SW Lightcurve © Northolt BranchObservatories

QHYCCD: At present, there are not many people paying attention to astronomy in China. Could you give us some suggestions to attract more people to pay attention to astronomy?

Guy: That's an interesting question.Social media is so powerful that we can use it to show people what we see in the sky.That said, one of the best ways to get more people to pay attention to astronomy is to get them to experience it.For example, an astronomy group meeting or a stargazing activity could be organized.Telescopes can provide real-time images that many people can view at the same time.

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