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)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Resident Astronomer tours Carnegie Observatory open house; original glass slide of Jupiter; American Astronomical Society in Pasdena; Comet 67P; Missed opportuity to photgraph novae

Greetings from (offsite) Palmia Observatory

Resident Astronomer George is offsite this week at the Carnegie Observatory open house.  I had not attended the open house before and it was quite interesting to walk on the grounds and down the halls and sit in the library where the great observers thought and pondered the images taken at Mt. Wilson. Check out this photo taken in the library
with the portrait of George Hale looking out the crowd.

Carnegie Observatory Open House and George Hale
Open House at Carnegie Observatory with George Hale overlooking the Library
There is a picture with some of the big observers who visited Mt. Wilson and had discussions here in the library and it was neat to think of Einstein and others lounging about here discussing astronomy.  Another exhibit that I particularly liked was one of the original glass plates, taken in about 1925, showing Jupiter and moons.  The text in the photo is not clearly legible but it describes who and when this image was taken and how the blurry tail across Jupiter was made as part of the attempt to dim the light from Jupiter so the moons would be more visible.  I can easily image some early astronomer using the little magnifying glass to examine and find some distant object.

Resident Astronomer sees original glass plate of Jupiter and moons
Original glass plate at the Carnegie Observatory showing Jupiter and moons
The open house included several lectures and a tour of the machine shop where special fixtures were designed and built for various Carnegie Observatory facilities including the new telescope in Chile.  Visitors enjoyed the pleasant surroundings and of course ice cream, which was the treat of the day.  I also had a chance to visit with Math Whiz, Dave  and Sister, Pam, and with Retired Legacy Coder, Now Studying Physics Full time, Larry.  There were a couple of folks I might have seen before from OPT or maybe San Diego Astronomy Club there as well and I thought I spied OCA Don Lynn in the distance also.

Carnegie Observatory in Pasadena Open House

Well after leaving the open house it was off to the convention center for the American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Science (AAS/DPS) meeting. You will remember from the last post about the need to understand the characteristics of your camera and analysis software and how you don't want to get fooled into seeing something in your image that is really just an artifact and not a real astronomical object.  Well at the meeting many sessions and much of each speakers time dealt with a lot of these very same concerns.  The professionals were always second guessing what could be going wrong with their data pipelines and how the statistics of random and systematic errors might cause them to err.  It seems that many months of effort by many professionals are spent trying to increase the robustness of their data pipelines in fodder to prevent false positives.  I'm at least glad that my simple types of problems, although they do require diligence in analyzing the data and images, is nowhere near as complex as these other projects.

I've spent part of my time in Pasadena attending AAS/DPS conference sessions on comets and new findings.  Previously, I was much more interested in cosmology and hadn't spent much time about new solar system findings, but some of the photos of comets, up close by spacecraft is really fascinating.  Consider the odd shaped comet, 67P/CG.  I was fascinated by a talk about the orbit insertion of the Rosetta spacecraft around the comet.  Normally, an orbit around a large spherical planet is well defined, but orbit around an irregularly shaped object, an object that is rotating and changing directions because of intermittent jets of material escaping from the comet, introduces all sorts of perturbations and causes the spacecraft to speed up and slowdown in difficult ways to predict.  Just look at this image of 67P/CG and try to imagine how you would continuously calculate what the line of sight gravitational attraction would be like.  It's amazing to me that you can even find a stable orbit.

Comet 67P (Courtesy Wikipedia)

One final item, I received an email alert from AAVSO that described the new novae, just discovered on October 14, as a magnitude 10.9 object.  Hey, that object should be visible in my camera, even in the city lights view here at the observatory.  Wow, I was quite excited about planning to go out and try to find this object when I return from the AAS conference here in Pasadena.  Oops, then I saw the RA and Dec for this nova and with Dec= -73 degrees, it is not going to be observable here in the northern hemisphere.  It's located in the Small Magellanic Cloud. Darn, that is a disappointment.  I just have to keep waiting for the next novae that I can practice on and see if I can find it too.
Until next time,

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