I promised pictures from Brickworld Indy and my Trip to Australia, only one problem: not enough space to post them here! I have created 2 public facebook albums.
Well I am back in the Midwest. I am Chicago, getting ready to head back to Indy. Whatan. Amazing trip! Sorry for the low quality image, cell phone again.
I am in the Sydney airport and found some free wifi. I have a few images taken a couple of days ago of the SkyMapper telescope and the sunset. The SkyMapper is a 1.35 meter scope that is computer controlled. Sorry for the bad resolution, they were taken on my cell phone. I had left me camera at the observatory that night. It is actually a really tight dome so it was hard to get a picture, let alone a good one.
I will be boarding in a few minutes for the 14 hour flight back to Los Angles. After I clear customs back in the USA, I will be on my way to Chicago and Indianapolis. In other news, the LEGO MINDSTORMS Space Shuttle will be making a special appearance on the east coast of the USA in early April! Stay tuned for more information!
This very well might be my last post before making it back to the USA (depending on if I can find free Wifi). Today was a rather rainy day. I spent some time organizing cables and ensuring there was nothing that would obstruct movement of the telescope. Since I am largely unable to test the software, I ended up reverting my changes (rather be safe than sorry). The modifications will need to be tested over the next few weeks between Dr. Ditteon and John. The Oakley Southern Sky Observatory is actually on the front lawn of John’s house. He takes care of the observatory when something breaks and is a great person. I want to publicly thank John for helping me over the past few day. I also want to than the Australia National University for allowing me to stay at Siding Spring’s astronomer’s lodge.
Since it was raining today, John took me up to the telescope he works on: The Faulkes 2 meter Telescope. The Faulkes is run by Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. I got to take some nice images of the scope. See below!
I was also able to take a quick video of the telescope moving! Quite an amazing sight!
I will be leaving for the airport bright and early tomorrow morning. It is about 32 hours to get back to Rose-Hulman in Indiana, USA. Wish me luck!
Tonight was partly cloudy so I wasnt able to view much at all. It didnt matter really as today was full of work. I installed the new electronics (seen above) and ran the cables. Running cables seems easy enough, except I had to take apart the mount to snake the cables through. RC Optical has a rather large power brick for the new electronics package and the cable wasn’t long enough to fit through the mount. I got creative with some Velcro and mounted the power brick itself to the mount and then did some cable management. I tested the scope to the extremes to ensure it would not pull on the cable. Also, since the cable did not go through the mount, I had to get inventive as to where to run the other end of the cable. That meant zip tying it to the counter weight rod. I was able to snake the USB cable through the mount, for what little that is worth.
Today we also cleaned the mirrors. It took over an hour, but it was well worth the work. Unlike glass, you cannot rub on the mirror. Rubbing can cause small scratches and that would less the quality of the image. Also, I installed all the software upgrades for the new electronics. That was a bit of work as we had to upgrade to ASCOM 6 and then I had to install plugins for The Sky 6 and CCDSoft. Quite a bit of work. In the end I was able to test the system and all is well. I need to do a bit of modification to the automated control software (adding in the primary mirror cover, seen below, and changing any bad drivers.
Below are some pictures I took last night (after I had made the blog post). They are (in order) M65, M66, and some shots of the sky from my SLR.
Today was super productive. I was able to attach the shutters (and after a bit of grinding) they now work! Tonight was clear again (and I mean super clear). I took a few more images. Here are some of the highlights! The image above is M8. The images below (in order) are:M95, M99, M61, NGC 2359, and NGC 2032. Enjoy.
Tomorrow is predicted to be cloudy so I will post some of images of the new electronics and cover on the scope. The past two nights have truly been beautiful.
I have been glued to the weather radar since I arrived in Australia. I am looking for a clear night. Well today the radar finally showed some hope this evening. I spent much of the day preparing for tonight, picking out targets and planning what to do if it is clear enough to open. Well there were a few small openings before midnight, but at 12:15, the sky magically cleared. I jumped on this opportunity to grab some images. I am proud to present some of the highlights of my night (so far!!). The first image is a spiral galaxy (M83). The next image is an open cluster (M93).
Below is Saturn. Since it is so close, it is very bright. It is hard to get the exposure right. This image had a blue filter and a super fast shutter. Most of the other images you see here were exposed for several minutes.
This last image is a large nebula (NGC 2070). A nebula is like a cloud of gas in space.
Today has been rainy. While there are still some clouds, we (me + the other astronomers) are hoping to open up if it clears. (although as I write this, the weather seems to be getting worse) The Oakley Southern Sky Observatory only takes about 5 minutes to open. I was able to open up last night for about 30 minutes, mainly to get some images of the telescope deployed. Just as it was finally getting dark enough to begin to take some images, it clouded over, so I reverted to working on installing the new mirror cover and light boxes.
Since I had some down time, I was invited up to the 4 meter Anglo-Australian Telescope. I captured some images inside the dome (the big dome from my day 2 post is the outside of the observatory). As you can see the dome is quite large compared to the scope. Don’t be mistaken, the telescope is huge (bigger than a school bus).
I also got to see some of the brains of the telescope. The astronomers who currently have time on the scope are looking at the spectrum of given targets. While I don’t know the exact details of their research, spectroscopy can help us understand the composition and age of an object. For example, the 2.3 meter I mentioned in a previous post was using spectroscopy to analyze the energy distribution of small galaxies.
I have seen plenty of kangaroos while I have been in the land down under. BUT, they seem to only come out when I am driving (on the left side of the road mind you). After dinner tonight, a few of the astronomers and myself went outside to talk briefly. We were greeted with two kangaroos. One had a joey. I was going to wait until tomorrow to post this, but I thought it would be a good surprise for my friends back in the State to wake up to!
As interesting as the kangaroos are to look at, they can be quite dangerous. With their strong legs, they can kick quite hard. However, my biggest fear is not so much the kangaroo, but the wild astrophysicist. Below is a picture of him in his “natural” habitat. See how he imitates other creatures?
In other news, it stopped raining, but there is thick cloud cover. Due to the clouds, I decided to begin some of the work on the scope. One of the projects is to install new light boxes. As you can see from an earlier post, there is a screen in front of the telescope. This is for calibration images (referred to as “dome flats”) . If you look at the pictures from the previous post, you can see they are small pinkish boxes. The new ones are a bit larger and black.
Some people might be wondering what the actual observatory looks like. Without a dome it is easy to mistake as a shed. Below is what people passing by might see. You can see that the tracks for the roof extend part way up the hill side. The door on the right is to the telescope and the door on the left is to the control room.
Day 3 is off to a rainy start. It should clear by dusk, but I have plently of work to do, even if it is raining. I have finally settled in Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Oakley Southern Sky Observatory. I am about to get to work mounting new electronics and lights on the scope. Below are some pictures of our RC Optical .5 meter reflector telescope and inside the observatory. (Note the clocks are not correct in the images. I have since corrected them to the exact local and USA times.)