Well, we're back from the PCGM in Santa Barbara and finally decided to begin learning how to set up the spectrograph and take spectra of stellar objects. I first started this task over a year ago and finally overcame all my reluctance and procrastination and finally started to do the work, but before getting into that let's look at an exciting announcement and other email news. First up, is
this article in Science magazine describing how the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is finally getting ready to maybe, just perhaps, or just barely, or almost, take a picture of the event horizon around a black hole. How neat is that if the astronomers succeed in seeing what can't really be seen.
|Worldwide radio telescopes try to image black hole event horizon (Source: courtesy of Science Magazine, March 3, 2017)|
One my recent and rare visit to Facebook I discovered several good videos of special interest to amateurs and armchair cosmologists. First is this wonderful video posted by Kept me from Violating Export Laws, Cindy. This video starts with a view of a person on the ground and then the camera moves to higher and higher altitudes until the view has left the Earth, then the Solar System, and on to way beyond. It is pretty neat to look at and experience the thrill. Thanks for that, Cindy!
Also, Resident Astronomer Peggy, found another excellent video describing the most detailed map of the universe yet produced. This is also a very interesting video and pretty amazing how astronomers can work out this 3-D structure just by look through a telescope. Thanks for that, Peggy!
Now, after trying to remember and understand what we heard about at the PCGM, especially about spin, symmetry and gauge theory, I reviewed some of the papers and presentations made there and found that this book, "Deep Down Things" by Bruce Schumm, was often listed as one of the references. I resolved to get me a copy and found that I had purchased this book over a year ago and had only go up to page 5. Well, now is the time to get started on it again and found that a major part of that book covers symmetry, Lie algebra and gauge theory, from a mostly, low mathematical standpoint. I found his explanations much easier to understand than what I had found in my more technical texbooks, where those authors often described some initial concepts in a couple of paragraphs and left the details to be worked out by the student, which in my case did not result in much useful learning.
|Resident Astronomer finally gets back to reading about symmetry and gauge invariance|
|Trying to learn spin physics and getting your exercise at the same time (Hooray!)|
(Image Source: Courtesy of "Deep Down Things" by Bruce Schumm)
Now, just in case you are wondering how it is that Amazon delivered this book a year ago and I'm just now starting to really get going in it, the following picture explains the situation. I don't get to Facebook too often, but this post from Some Interesting Things tells the whole story about books getting arranged in a pile and how it is sometimes hard to get to that one on the bottom. In my case, I have stacks of books on top of tables which themselves have stacks upon stacks. It is hard to keep things straight so I switch to martinis when the stacks get too high!
|I don't get to Facebook very often, but this table support looks like my stack of physics books|
Just being there too triggered a memory of one of the first visits I made at the Astroimagers SIG, now over two years ago. I met Dave Kodama there and he offered some good advice and encouragement and at one point answered my question if amateurs can take images of satellites in geosynchronous orbit? Yes, they can he said and showed me some of his images. Well, I was quite excited by this and set out to do the same thing myself. If you're interested in part of that story, check out the blog post of January 15, 2015. Anyway, I decided that I should include Dave's website on my blog's recommended websites and you can find that website there too and check out some of his fantastic astroimages. Thanks for all of that, Dave!
Finally, we should report on the LISA Spectrograph project that was started also over a year ago and is now back on course. I spent almost all of one morning plugging in all the cables and installing all of the software and drivers on my Surface Pro. Check out the photo of the desktop and cables.
|Palmia Observatory Resident Astronomer hooks up LISA Spectrograph cables for the first time|
There is a power cable and a USB communication cable for each camera and the guiding camera will have one more camera going down to the mount guiding port. The spectrograph also has two power cables on it making a total of about six cables that ultimately have to leave the spectrograph, which is to be mounted on the telescope/mount and the computer (Surface pro) which does all of the guiding and image collection. This is just a big complex collection of equipment that all must work together and the cables have to be free of the mount as the mount slews from target to target. I hope I can get all of this stuff to work together? In fact, this uncertainty is why I have procrastinated on starting this project for over a year now, but the time has finally come.
The first test of the spectrograph on the bench top consisted of taking off the cover on the optical tube that fits in the telescope barrel (the cover is the black cylinder shown in the photo between the two cameras) and taking a spectra of the ambient laboratory room lighting. The image below represents the first image of light entering the spectrograph. I sort of see spectral lines, sort of like absorption lines, in the image and wonder if this is what the spectrum of indoors lighting would be?
|Image of First light through LISA Spectrograph at Palmia Observatory|
|Spectrograph screenshot with Neon calibration lamp turned on (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Until next time, Happy St. Patrick's day and many more,
Resident Astronomer George