On 14 March 2016 the European Space Agency in partnership with the Russian Space Agency launched the first ExoMars spacecraft, to study the red planet.
As this mission began its journey to Mars our UK education partner, Faulkes Telescope Project, managed to observe the spacecraft using LCOGT. FT project, working with ESA (who provided coordinate predictions), managed the very difficult feat of successfully pointing our telescopes at a fast moving rocket a few hours after launch.
This rare glimpse of a spacecraft so early in its journey is a first for both FT project and LCOGT. It also is a fantastic demonstration of LCOGT's capabilities as a time-domain observatory.
The streaks in these pictures are the rocket and the spacecraft, which have separated. The images were taken from our Siding Spring site using and LCOGT 1-meter telescope. Each exposure is only 5s in duration taken at 17:26 UTC on 14 March 2016. ExoMars is moving very fast which is why the rocket booster and space craft appear as streaks. The original data can be downloaded from our Public Observations site (first image and second image).
Faulkes Telescope Project are partnering with ESA's Gaia mission to involve UK school children in observing new discoveries made by Gaia, through the Gaia Alerts program.Share on Twitter Share on Facebook