Thank you to the Haunted Observatory Crew October 29, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Observatory.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU, halloween, Jack o'Lanterns, Observatory, pumpkin
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This last Friday we had our annual Halloween open house at the observatory. Thanks to all the pumpkin carvers and heroes who made it all possible!
And some of our favorite heroes of the night
Family Open House Tonight September 28, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Observatory.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Observatory, Ring Nebula
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Tonight beginning at 8:30 we will have our monthly open house at the EIU Observatory. This month we will have a full moon and with clear skies, we will observe the Ring Nebula through the 16″ main scope. Some come on out and meet the members of the Astronomy Club and rotate our dome!
Gathering the Wrong Light July 21, 2012Posted by pjhsscience in Astronomy, Observatory, telescopes.
Tags: Astronomy, cosmology, Light Pollution, Observatory, science, space, stars, telescope
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Imagine for a moment, driving at night through the vast and unpopulated expanses of the western deserts of North America. Frequently, some of the most amazing photos of our night sky are taken from locations such as these and for very good reason. The only light visible is that which is being projected from the stars above. Back to yourself in the car now, you are approaching a town, a rather large town. As you get closer the lights from above start to fade as your eyes are drawn toward the glowing city. It’s not that street lamps and stoplights are more of an amazing site than our celestial blanket; it’s just that those lights are quickly becoming the only thing visible. You are experiencing the plague of metropolitan exorbitance, a form of pollution, light pollution.
Light pollution is one of the newest forms of pollution plaguing modern society. Before electric grids the night sky, even in large cities, was still an intriguing sight. As technology evolved and electricity flowed we were able to combat our limited night vision by lighting the night. As the world at night become brighter we covered the sky by uncovering what lies beneath us at night.
Lighting too has evolved throughout time. We are becoming more familiar with the glow of HID, or high intensity discharge lights, while becoming less familiar with the arrangement of the heavens. To get a view of just how encroaching light pollution can be we need only look at the animal kingdom. Lighting areas where light is not naturally present at night is having a major effect on nocturnal animals. Sea turtle hatchlings are often confused by brightly lit beaches and wander away from safe havens. Migration patterns of many species of waterfowl have been altered due to excess lighting. Feeding is a naturally performed at night for nocturnal creatures and feeding patterns have brought unwanted guests to our doorsteps due to light pollution. Lights attract bugs and bugs attract bats.
Astronomers from amateur to professional can all agree that light pollution is a great disturbance. Before even viewing a star astronomers without an enclosure cannot expect to have full dark adaption at night. The tools of astronomy are also plagued by light pollution. For instance, the Mt. Wilson Observatory just outside of Los Angeles is now operating at 11% of its original capacity due to the glowing L.A. night sky. While some stars may be visible in areas of high light pollution galaxies and nebula are greatly dimmed and very difficult to see even with advanced telescopes. New observatories are increasingly being constructed in remote areas in order combat light pollution but remote construction brings higher costs.
Limiting magnitude can be described as the faintest apparent magnitude of a celestial body capable of being detected and dependent upon equipment. Light pollution has a direct and sustained impact on the limiting magnitude in a given area. The limiting magnitude of the human eye under a completely dark sky is somewhere in the range of 7.6-8.0. At the other side of this scale, imagine yourself staring up at the night sky in a brightly lit inner-city setting. The limiting magnitude of your eye has been reduced by fifty percent to 4.0 or less. That comparison is simply applied to eyeball astronomy though, what about astronomers looking to make an observation. Under a dark sky with a 32 centimeter reflecting telescope you might just make some observations at the 18th magnitude. Again, we travel to the city where you set up your scope and find that you will only be making observations at the 13th magnitude.
For those in areas affected by light pollution there are some methods of circumventing it. Astronomers often employ narrow or high-band filters that do not allow light of certain spectral lines to pass through a telescope. The spectral lines targeted are those emitted by common vapor lamps including mercury and sodium. Though a good tool, these filters do limit the use of higher magnification.
If you wish to calculate how much light pollution will affect your astronomy work there is a simple equation to employ. The equation, I=0.01Pd-2.5 where I is the increase in sky glow, P is the population of the targeted city and d is the distance to the center of the city, works very well. This law is commonly referred to as Walker’s Law. Merle Walker proposed this relation after taking measurements of sky glow in several California cities. If you used this calculation and yielded a value of .03 that would mean that at the midway point between the horizon and zenith angle in the direction of the city the current sky would be 3% brighter than the natural background.
It is easy to see that combating light pollution would be of great benefit to society in general, the cost savings alone are staggering. Every year we waste one billion dollars lighting the night sky. Remediation of this problem is not as difficult as one might think; in fact, light pollution is the easiest of all forms of pollution to fix. Replacing old style lamps that radiate light in all directions with lamps that focus light downward is one remediation tactic. Also, we have to realize that lighting is not always necessary and we should take steps to remove lighting where it is not needed. Changing output is another effective method. Extremely bright bulbs are used in a number of lighting applications where they are not needed, limiting energy output not only reduces light pollution but also saves money.
We often light outdoor areas without a thought as to what we are losing. We may gain a little extra ease of night time navigation but we lose light at the same time. The light we lose is the light from nebula, galaxies and stars. This light has traveled a great distance, often many light years. This light has traveled those great distances through the vast reaches of outer space. This light ends its journey within our atmosphere at the hands of our lighting. Light pollution is a problem we have created but a problem that we can fix. Take a moment to look at the heavens through a dark sky and ask yourself if it is worth saving. My answer is yes.
OBSERVATORY OPEN HOUSE 9:00PM TONIGHT June 29, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Observatory.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Observatory
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Come to the Saturn viewing tonight. Last month was a little cloudy, but tonight looks clear. Viewing this close to the summer solstice, not only is it HOT (103 today), but the sun sets the latest of the year. So we will begins at 9:00PM TONIGHT. Parking is at the campus lot near the Methodist church. Because of construction on 4th street you may have to approach from the South.
FUNDRAISER AT YERKES OBSERVATORY February 19, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Observatory.
Tags: ARI, Astronomy, Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Observatory, Yerkes Observatory
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You are invited…
Yerkes Observatory event Friday Feb. 24th – 7:00 PM
In 2012, Yerkes will be engaged in a series of fund-raising events to support the restoration and upgrades of Yerkes telescopes and support funding for Yerkes Education Outreach programs. On Friday evening February 24th, Yerkes will host the first of these events.
Supporting SKYNET and Yerkes telescopes
Funds from this first event will be used specifically to upgrade the mirror coating and operation of the Yerkes 41″ reflector, and to support the redesign of the optics of the reclaimed Hands-On Universe 30” telescope by Robert Holmes of the Astronomical Research Institute. Both of these telescopes are operable through SKYNET (http://skynet.unc.edu/), a world-wide network of telescopes, used by scientists, and teachers and students associated with our Yerkes Education Programs and our Collaborators, including Hands-On Universe (HOU) and International Asteroid Search Campaign (IASC).
Limited participation, register now!
Participation will be limited to 100 guests; cost $50 per person. There will be several scientists, engineers, educators and students attending to mingle with the guests to discuss SKYNET, our participation in SKYNET and the plans we have to restore Yerkes telescopes. If weather permits, guests will also be invited to do some stargazing through the Yerkes great refractor. Wear warm clothes (domes are not heated) and shoes appropriate for climbing narrow stairs; flashlights are suggested as well.
It is our hope to find benefactors among the guests who will be interested in a contribution beyond the initial $50.
Name___________________________________________ Address___________________________________________ City______________________________ State _____________ Zip__________ YES, _____________ Person(s) will attend @ $50 per person
Check enclosed for $_________________
Checks payable to: University of Chicago, Yerkes Observatory
Send checks to Yerkes Observatory, 373 W. Geneva Street, Williams Bay, WI 53191 Additional information, phone: 262-245-5555, fax: 262-245-9805
You may also register online at http://astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/yo_feb24/index.html
16″ Telescope in the Repair Shop November 6, 2011Posted by jcconwell in Observatory, telescopes.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Observatory, telescope
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The campus observatory’s 16″ telescope has been under the weather for the last month or so. We thought it might have been electrical problems in the building, but my two students, Tyler and Hannah traced it to one of the circuit boards that deal with the RA (Right Ascension) drive. That’s the motor that moves the telescope East and West, and also tracks objects as the Earth rotates. You can see the picture below as Hannah puts the mount back together to ship it off to Meade. Sometimes the best education happens when things don’t work. There is no better major than physics to teach problem solving skills.
We hope to have the telescope back and running in a couple weeks. Until then we can use the 30″ telescope we helped refurbished at ARI, and the 16″ telescopes in Chile.
OPEN HOUSE TONIGHT! October 28, 2011Posted by jcconwell in Observatory.
Tags: Jack o lantern, Observatory
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Come to the annual HAUNTED OBSERVATORY at 8:00PM tonight we ring the observatory with Jack-o-Lanterns. While it’s so scary the 16″ telescope left the building…we will still have the smaller telescopes out and various star-fleet command types manning them. Also you’ll get to speak to real mad scientists…not the facke ones in the movies. So come on by at 8:00….there may even be candy!
Astronomy Club tonight! October 26, 2011Posted by jcconwell in Observatory.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Jack o lantern, Observatory
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Room 2153 in the physical science building at 8:00PM, we will be preparing for the annual Halloween open house at the observatory. Tonight bring all your pumpkin carving skills, we are making enough Jack -O’Lanterns to ring the observatory on Friday.
OBSERVATORY OPEN HOUSE TONIGHT! September 30, 2011Posted by jcconwell in Observatory.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Observatory, open house
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It’s the last Friday of the month so it’s time for the open house at the observatory. It starts at 8:00PM tonight, rain or shine! If the weather cooperates we will be viewing the Ring Nebula through the main 16″ telescope under the dome. The Ring Nebula is one of the most famous planetary nebula, the gaseous remains of a red giant star.
There will also be smaller telescopes and binoculars to view the heavens with. If this is your first time to visit you can find us on this map. Park in the university lot next to the Methodist Church, or if you need closer parking because of movement restrictions drive up the gravel road leading to the observatory. See you there!
ASTRONOMY CLUB TONIGHT! September 28, 2011Posted by jcconwell in Observatory.
Tags: Observatory, EIU, telescope, Eastern Illinois University, Astronomy Club
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Meeting starts in Room 2153, Physical Science Building at 8:00PM, then on to the telescopes.