Tuesday, April 29, 2014

First Light of the 17 inch

The following message came from our club president...
As you noted from the images Mike Radwick (thank you Mike) sent to us, "official" first light for our club's new telescope has occurred! (See yesterday's post for more about the telescope, see below for the images). It was pretty much a complete success. We need to add a little weight to the mirror end and digital setting circles remain to be installed. Setup and collimation went fine and the mirror seemed to cool down quickly. The images were very good. Excellent detail and resolution of Jupiter and Mars. Porrima was a very clean split. Not that big a deal at about 2.2 arc seconds, but we used low power. M35 showed pinpoint stars to the edge of the field of a 26mm Nagler. The supernovae in M82 was easier to detect than it was in the McMath. Everyone that touched this scope, from the re-figuring of the mirror to the finished product should be thanked thoroughly  for their excellent work! This is going to be a great club resource.

Our new scope has already done great service as we had a turnout of at least a dozen Lowbrows and a public turnout of 60 to 75. It may have started a little later than we hoped, but the season has started in grand style. We should be proud.
And the photos from Saturday night...

The telescope with one pair of truss tubes.

Some of the components...

Setting it up...

Carly takes a look...

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Club's new telescope

A long time ago (no one seems willing to admit, or remember, how long) there was a proposal to allow the ATM group  (amateur telescope making group) group to rebuild the club’s Coulter telescope. This telescope was a large Dob sitting in the observatory building, unused.

The idea: rebuild the telescope so it would be more usable. The mirrors would be used in a newly constructed telescope. The proposal passed, but progress was slow. That is until the autumn months of 2013, when a Telekit was ordered. The ATM group started meeting once a week, to assemble the kit. There were many tasks that needed to be coordinated among the group, such as sending the mirror to be recoated. It took time, but there was steady progress.

The most recent of the ATM meetings was last Saturday. While there were some mirror issues that remain (not to mention the possible addition of electronics, which would be yet another project), the end result was a usable telescope.

The telescope was brought to the Saturday open house. It was performing well, and Lowbrows as well as club visitors had the chance to look through it. There were some photographs taken at the open house and I plan to post some of them later this week.

For information about open houses at Peach Mountain (located a few miles from Dexter, Michigan) see http://www.umich.edu/~lowbrows/calendar/regular.html

For a schedule of astronomy events in Southeast Michigan (including open houses at Peach Mountain) see http://www.umich.edu/~lowbrows/calendar/

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lunar Eclipse Photos

It was overcast in Southeast Michigan (in fact it snowed, two inches in Ann Arbor, possibly enough to make 2013/2014 the snowiest season in Ann Arbor history). So we couldn't see the lunar eclipse here.

However it wasn't overcast everywhere. Brian Ottum was able to get some photos from a telescope located in New Mexico that he controlled remotely from Michigan. He posted his photos on flickr...


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lunar Eclipse

There will be a lunar eclipse visible the night of April 14-15. The best place to view the eclipse is North/South America and the eastern Pacific. For more details see this article...


Friday, April 11, 2014

What is a black hole?

This post comes from NASA's Space Place. NASA's Space Place is a NASA educational website about space, Earth science, and technology.

NASA's Space Place in a SNAP! is a series of quick, narrated tours of animated infographics that illustrate key science concepts. Not only are they fun and entertaining on their own, they also come with a downloadable poster and a transcript of the video, making for a cross-disciplinary learning experience. The latest topic—black holes!

What is a black hole? A black hole is an area of such immense gravity that nothing—not even light—can escape from it. Find out what they are today at http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/black-holes. This post explains black holes in simple non-mathematical language.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mars Opposition is April 8th.

Approximately once every two years Earth and Mars are relatively close together. The time when the Sun and Mars are directly opposite each other is called opposition. The opposition of Mars will occur on April 8th. On April 14th Earth and Mars will be the closest they will be for this two year cycle.

For these reasons, the month of April will be a particularly good time to observe Mars through a telescope. Normally all you will see is a blurry red disk, but for a few weeks before and a few weeks after opposition, it is possible to see surface detail with a ground based amateur telescope. While Mars can be easily seen with the naked eye at other times, it is brighter and easier to find near opposition.