N3 - Coordination of Earth-based and space observations


N3 Co-ordinators:  
Helmut RUCKER, Austrian Academy of Science Space Research Institute, Austria
Steve MILLER, University College London, UK

The N3 Activity aimed to develop synergies between space missions and telescope observations from the ground or from Earth orbit, maximising the scientific return on both sides.

With a complete tool-box of ground-based observatories, Earth-orbiting telescopes and space missions that take in-situ measurements, astronomers are now able to observe at wavelengths ranging across the electromagnetic spectrum, and use multiple observatories simultaneously. By applying different ground-based techniques and taking measurements at wavelengths outside the capabilities of the spacecraft, scientists on Earth can complement the data collected by the spacecraft and cross-validate the spacecraft’s observations. There is also a large, active and highly-skilled community of amateur astronomers watching various solar system
objects regularly, that obtain excellent images to complement data from observatories.

N3 supported two types of coordinated observations:

  • Space mission complementary observations: earth-based observations of current future or past targets by spacecraft instruments which will complement the scientific results esa missions 
  • Space mission supporting observations: Earth-based observations of potential targets that are or will be observed by spacecraft instruments, with the aim of assisting the preparation or operational stage of a planetary space mission.
  • These activities encouraged an environment for the efficient exchange of ideas, experiences, and results among the various research teams, developing established co-operations and stimulating new links. A coordination working group defined a global strategy for observations, identifying observational targets, discussing and initiating particular observational campaigns during workshops and teleconferences.

    The N3 strategic workshops proved to be very popular and helped to consolidate and link the European planetary science. Discussions and co-ordination efforts in the N3 workshops were put into practice through the N3 observation campaigns. Five campaigns were organised during the project, including:

  • Observations of the controlled impact esa s smart-1 spacecraft into moon in 2006 div li
  • Observations of two meteor showers in 2007;
  • Observations of jupiter during the flyby nasa s new horizon mission as it passed gas giant on its way to pluto in 2007
  •  Measurements of light from stars as they were obscured by Pluto and Neptune’s moon Triton in 2008.
  • These observation campaigns generated valuable output for the continuation of activity in respective fields of planetary science and a total of 25 papers were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals over the duration of the EuroPlaNet project.

    N3’s success in building links to the amateur community in key research areas, for example meteors or stellar occultation, has been a key achievement for EuroPlaNet. The incorporation of amateur observers broadens the observational basis and constitutes a multiplication factor for observations.