Saturday, April 4, 2009

100 Hours of Astronomy

Telescopes (2)

The IYA2009 organization sponsored the world-wide 100 hours of astronomy this weekend. Click on their link on the right hand side of my blog for more information. I chose to celebrate with the Minnesota Astronomical Society at their Onan Observatory. They have a lot of cool telescopes. Click on the link to Onan for a complete description, if you got your nerd on today.

It was great fun. I learned a lot and saw a lot of cool objects. I have a small set of photos on my Flickr page here. Here are some photo highlights (click to embiggen):

I took a whole bunch of photos of Saturn by holding my Sony DSC-W150 up to the eye piece of various telescopes. It took some trial and error to find the best camera settings and it was pretty challenging to hold the camera steady enough to get a reasonable shot. Here is my best Saturn pic:

Fuzzy Saturn

One of the amateur astronomers thought this might be a good representation of what Galileo first saw when he observed Saturn about 400 years ago. Interestingly, while I was viewing Saturn in one scope and another guy was viewing it through a different scope on the same mount, we both saw a satellite pass through our field of view. I suppose this is pretty rare given the small viewing area through the telescope. Very cool!

One of the neatest viewing platforms that MAS has at their Onan Observatory is a 16" telescope (forgive me for not having specs) that is connected to computer monitors. This is very practical because it allows a lot of people to view the same image simultaneously. I took some pics of objects in the monitor. Here is one of my favorites:

Sombrero M104

It's the Sombrero Galaxy, also known as M104 and NGC4594. It looked more crisp in the visual telescopes but I think this shot turned out great.

Regular reader of my blog are aware that I spent some time looking for Comet Lulin last month. My most popular posts are about the comet here, here, here and here. Although I was unsuccessful in finding the comet with my binoculars with all the local light pollution, I did have some fun in the attempt. I asked one of the MAS members if he could show me the comet. He did that and showed me 2 other comets only visible through a telescope. I had no idea so many were around now. We had a pretty bright moon and some high clouds here and there, so they only looked like fuzzy dots. Regardless, I was impressed. Here is my shot of Comet Lulin off the monitor:

Comet Lulin

It's the fuzzy dot just right of center in this frame. Click on the image to embiggen.

Here is a picture of the Moon. I tried to capture the "Straight Wall." It is fairly rare to get a good view of this feature because the Sun has to be in just the right spot to cast the shadow.

Straight Wall Moon

It's the straight line running from top to bottom and a little right to left in the center of this frame. This shot was taken of the video monitor. This feature looked a lot cooler in the visual scopes but I was unable to get a good shot.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a few more pictures in a set on my Flickr site. Please check them out. I'm going to try and get out to see as much of the sky as I can this year, so come back regularly and look for more posts.

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