Archive | July 2016

Making Simulated Main-belt Comets

Hello everyone!

I am Ishan, a summer student at ASIAA, Taiwan. I started working with the Comet Hunters team, about 3 weeks ago, on creating simulated Main-Belt Comet (MBC) images. Using appropriate mathematical functions, we are trying to create asteroid images with variable attributes like the direction of motion, brightness of tail and coma, etc. When ready, these images will be fed into the Comet Hunters website intermixed with the real images. How the project as a whole performs on these images will help us gain better insight into how well Comet Hunters can find different strengths of cometary activity and thus the true number of main-belt comets. For example, we can figure out up to what minimum brightness level of the coma (with respect to the nucleus) of the asteroid do the volunteers generally detect it.

For my present work, I am considering the nucleus to be just one pixel wide. For modelling the coma around it, we are using a 1/r profile centered around the nucleus. A sample coma is shown below.  Note that the actual coma will be much fainter than the nucleus.

Fig 1

As we can see, there is ‘cross’ visible at the center. This is due to the fact that we are plotting a circular function in square pixel-grid. Now when we trail this image in a randomly chosen direction, we get a weird output.

Fig 2

As you can see, there is a skewed ‘X’ at the center of the trail. To check whether the trailing function is faulty, I fed it with a simple 2D gaussian coma. The resultant image looks pretty decent!


Fig 3

We are currently trying to figure out the issue with the 1/r profile. Maybe using polar coordinates will resolve this. I will get back to you with the developments!



Meet the Team: Summer Student Ishan Mishra

Today we have the next post in our Meet the Comet Hunters Team series. This time we’re featuring  Ishan Mishra who will be working on Comet Hunters this summer as part of the ASIAA Summer Student Program.


What is your current position and where/institution?

I recently graduated (May 2016) from the Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati, India, with a major in Electronics and Communications Engineering.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I’m from India and grew up partly in the east Indian state of Jharkhand and partly in the west Indian state of Gujarat.

What interested you in the ASIAA summer student program?

During my first visit to Taiwan in 2015 (as a summer student at NCU), I attended an astrobiology seminar at ASIAA. I loved the institute and its people and hence applied to its summer student program. 

Having volunteered for some citizen science projects in the past, I feel the opportunity to know and be part of the behind-the-scenes work for Comet Hunters is just too cool!

Why are you interested in main-belt comets?

My primary field of interest is astrobiology and one of the greatest mysteries in the field is the origin of water on Earth. Main Belt Comets promise to be interesting tools to solve the problem.

Name one hobby of yours?

Listening to and playing music (on my guitar) from the Classic Rock/Rock n Roll era.

What is the most recent tv show you have watched?

Modern Family

What is your favorite movie?

The Man From Earth

What is the latest book you have read?

Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Who is your favorite singer/band/musical artist?
Pink Floyd

What are five of the top ten most played songs on your iTunes/spotify/etc playlist?

Comfortably Numb (live at Pulse) – Pink Floyd

Spirit of the Radio – Rush

While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles

Deform to Form a Star – Steven Wilson

Baba O’ Riley – The Who

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I share my birthday with Galileo.

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

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