Observing with Street Lights

Observing with Street Lights
Dark sky sites not always necessary to see the Milky Way (This image was taken ouside of a B&B in Julian, CA)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

First Palmia Observatory Naming and Spectroscopy Post

Well, my astrophysics work is continuing and we now have a new observatory.  We live in a condominium complex, called Palmia, and its hard to just go out into the parking lot in front of our house because the street lamps and house address lights are so bright.  We have driven to the OCA dark site (about 25 minutes away) for the really dark site at Anza (about 2.5 hours away), but this makes observing into a much more involved process.  We found that the condominium tennis courts, about 5 blocks away, provide an excellent place to set up the scope.  Nobody plays tennis after about 8:30pm, so we can set up at that time.  We've been using that location for several nights now, so it time to christen that location:  Palmia Observatory.

Newsflash from Palmia Observatory.
Amateur science can be coupled with amateur astronomy very easily with the low cost tools that are available now.  The Palmia Observatory resident astronomer, George, has acquired a 100 lines/mm diffraction grating and analysis software from www.rspec-astro.com, for just a couple of hundred dollars.  The first attempt at collecting a spectrum of a star was performed last night using the bright star Arcturus.  The spectrum from the diffraction grating is shown below.

The respec software generates the spectrum plot shown in the pdf document.  Look at the intensity peaks.  Pretty neat!
The next step is to learn how to calibrate the spectrum plot in order to convert camera pixels into wavelengths.