"Often we get mistaken as researchers ... but the funny thing is, re-search would imply that someone has done this before ... I like to consider us searchers" Charles Danforth.
Those were the words and the world of Charles, one of 26 team members sent by NASA to South Africa, to find out more in an object in space called MU69 (a Kuiper Belt Object). With no time to delay, Day 1 we and the NASA team left to explore the succulent karoo biome, whilst finding a suitable site to set up one of 12 telescopes, near Clanwilliam, Northern Cape
New Horizons Next Fly-by Mission
With weather determining the project, and a cloudy forecast predicted, the teams split. Half chased clearer skies into the East, whilst the rest remained near head quarters - at the Rondeberg Resort. Two days of travel, flats tires, blue light brigades and open dirt roads of the Karoo awaited the East Teams.
"This purpose of the South African Mission - to capture just two seconds of data"
This occultation - when MU69 passes in front of a distant star - was going to be no easy feat, and according to Con Tsang 'this occultation could never have been done 2 years ago'. With updated star maps, the accuracy of the project has increased dramatically.
The event happened at 5:11am in the early winter morning. Both the South African and Argentinian expeditions were successful in capturing the data they were seeking – still being analysed at this time to determine results, and the campaign is now is widely considered by some as the greatest and most complex occultation effort in human history.
June 3rd was the first part in a series of occultations - the next one, one - on July 10th - they'll be using SOFIA - a Boeing 747 fitted with a stabilised telescope. Simply put, it is a flying observatory capable of flying above the 99% of the water vapour in our atmosphere.
Then, on July 17 th, comes the third and final occultation when all 20 plus telescopes relocate to Patagonia, Argentina, as MU69 occults the brightest star it’ll pass in 2017. And, once again, ReWild is honoured to be on hand to help document the events.
To learn more, watch NASA's videos below