October 6, 2010

posted Oct 13, 2010, 5:14 PM by Emmy

Skies were yet again cloudy, so we were treated to a Powerpoint presentation by Donna on the topic of astrobiology. We discussed the possibility of life existing sometime in the past or currently on Mars (whose smoothened rocks suggest the existence of water at some point in its history, ALH84001 meteorite possibly shows bacteria-like structures, and Nakhla meteorite contains hydrocarbons), Titan (covered with liquid CH4 that could compare to liquid H2O), Europa (covered with ice and possibly having an ocean filled with life underneath the surface), and the newly-discovered Earth-like extrasolar planet Gliese 581g. We also touched on the possibility of silicon-based life toward the end of the presentation.

September 29 2010

posted Sep 29, 2010, 6:09 PM by Christopher Leeney   [ updated Sep 29, 2010, 7:15 PM ]

  • Overcast, no telescope today
  • T-shirts are out, because SGA funding ran out
  • Greg gave a powerpoint presentation on some aspects of the search for extrasolar planets, to celebrate the discovery of the first extrasolar planet found in the habitable zone.
  • Watched a short NASA video on Kepler (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdodLNvlo4M)
    • Kepler uses very wide-field (10 degree x 10 degree) photometry with a 96 megapixel CCD that detects very accurately and with low noise variations in brightness, in order to detect planetary transits of stars.
  • Watched a video on interesting astronomical questions from Sixty Symbols.
  • Listened to a podcast and watched a slideshow.
  • Looked at Formalhaut after some interesting discussion about solar system physics and wild hypotheticals.

September 22 2010

posted Sep 23, 2010, 11:20 AM by Christopher Leeney   [ updated Sep 23, 2010, 2:31 PM ]

  • Thunderstorms closeby north and south of our location at 8:30. Rain at 9:00. Faculty advisor gone.  No telescope today.
  • Decided on a T-shirt design
  • Watched Carl Sagan's Cosmos (chapter 11: The Persistence of Memory)

September 15 2010

posted Sep 20, 2010, 8:09 PM by Christopher Leeney   [ updated Sep 22, 2010, 6:39 PM ]

  • Spent the beginning of the meeting fixing and questioning whether we had fixed the major misalignment problem the scope suffered over the weekend. 
  • Chris gave a short lecture on narrow-band astrophotography, light pollution, and false-color imagery.  Hope was offered that we would be able to use existing narrow-band filters in a classic configuration called the Hubble Palette.  We picked out the requisite filters, one for Hydrogen Alpha, one for Oxygen III, and one for Sulfur II, but learned that placing them in the filter wheel would require some significant disassembly.  We decided to try and use what was already in the wheel.
  • Tried a 300-second exposure of M27 using what we thought was a narrow-band hydrogen alpha filter, as a test case for beating light pollution.  Eventually decided that we had the alignment right, but nothing showed up between the stars.  We now suspect it was the wrong filter and that's why we had no detectable gas nebula on the result.
  • Broke out the filters and labelled them.
  • Tried and failed to get Jupiter and Uranus in the same image frame - close, but too far apart.
  • Eventually decided to try to image Jupiter using each filter on the wheel in order to build an RGB image, and demonstrated how to switch filters.  Much to our surprise, after our first image we found that either Io or its shadow was in transit across Jupiter.  Distributed copies of the resulting monochrome images in order to composite them later.

September 8 2010

posted Sep 20, 2010, 7:51 PM by Christopher Leeney   [ updated Sep 22, 2010, 6:37 PM ]

  • Introduced the very large group of newcomers to the Telescope and dome.
  • Introduced the control interface, from the old computer running the DOS Telescope Control Program, to TheSky Six that we use to point the telescope and locate things and astronomical image processing suite Maxim DL.  Demonstrated how to make a subset image.
  • Shot our first galaxy, Andromeda, and demonstrated how levels can be used to enhance contrast and bring out subtle details.
  • Got a few blurry images of Jupiter through a clear filter with a short exposure, demonstrating how to shoot a sequence.

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