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Fire Threatens Mt. Wilson Observatory & JPL August 30, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Observatory.
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A group of firefighters rest their legs while waiting for the Station Fire to cross a gully. ( Photo: Dave Bullock (eecue)) ( JPL in the Foreground, Photo: Dave Bullock (eecue))

Dave Bullock’s site is at http://davebullock.com/

The Station Fire is close to historic Mt. Wilson Observatory. The staff has been evacuated and updates are hard to get with the situation in flux. Below are some links that can give more information on this changing situation.

Dr. Pamela Gay’s (Starstyder): news and past fires at observatories

Planetary Society (Emily Lawdawalla) News and Links

Mt. Wilson fire website

Mt Wilson Tower Webcam

UPDATE , Los Angeles Times, Mount Wilson:

10:20 a.m (PDT)., 8/30/09: Fire is two miles away from Mt. Wilson, site of a number of important communications towers and an observatory. Ground crews are cutting back vegetation and brush in the area in order to arrest the fire’s progress in that area.

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New Podcast on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus August 28, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, IYA 2009, moon, planets, Podcast.
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The podcast  for today  at “365 days of astronomy” is sponsored by the Physics department at EIU. This podcast covers the history, current understanding, and upcoming plans for Enceladus, and is moderated by David Seal, Cassini Mission Planner at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

365_iyaThe permanent link is at

http://365daysofastronomy.org/2009/08/28/august-28th-saturn’s-moon-enceladus-–-past-present-and-future/

Observatory Open House Tonight August 28, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, IYA 2009, Observatory.
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Rain or Shine! Come look at or through the 16″ telescope tonight. Weather permitting we will observe Jupiter (the best time this year) and the moon. We start at 8:30 PM

EIU Observatory

EIU Observatory

MEETING and FOOD TONIGHT! August 26, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, General, Observatory.
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The first Astronomy Club and SPS meeting is tonight at 921 6th Street at 6:00PM .

Gomez's Hamburger (Credit: HST)

Gomez's Hamburger (Credit: HST)

Angus burgers and Boca burgers and good time talking to people interested inthe mysteries of the Universe! Everyone is welcome!

And this Friday the first Observatory open house of the semester, 8:30pm. Jupiter is in opposition so it will be the best viewing of the year.

New Year, Solar Filter and a New Room! August 23, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Observatory, Solar and Space weather.
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Welcome back, or if your new, welcome. Classes begin on Monday. If you come around to the second floor of the Physical Science building, you’ll see a few changes. We now have the Astro-murals mounted on some nice new boards. You will notice we now have a corner room, where computational physics was, for astrophysics research. The computation physics moved to a bigger room downstairs across from the machine shop. We’ll soon be putting in some computers to be used for both image reduction and running code using programs like Mathematica and Mathlab. We will also use the room to do instrumentation work, maintenance, and repair for the observatory.

IMG_1468More good news. We now have a full aperture solar filter for the 16″ telescope. So solar observation for labs and research will be coming soon.

Solar filter for the 16" telescope

Solar filter for the 16" telescope

Bad news, we are in the midst of the lowest solar minimum in several generations. So it’s BORING to look at. No sun spots or solar flares!

SOHO Pic from 8/23/2009....see.... NOTHING!

SOHO Pic from 8/23/2009....see.... NOTHING!

But if you want to keep track of the sun, or look at it when it was a little more interesting, go to the website for the orbiting solar observatory SOHO. Look at the BLOG tomorrow for details about the picnic this week, and the new podcast and open house.

New Observatory Site for ARI Under construction! August 21, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Observatory.
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A new dark sky site is under construction for the Astronomical Research Institute (ARI). Located 12 miles away From Charleston the new site will offer darker skies and more room for the bevey of telescopes that will be installed. Shown below are two of the roll-off roof observatories for ARI’s 24″ an 32″ scopes.

Two of four new roll-off observatory buildings

Two of four new roll-off observatory buildings

Two more will be built to house the 30″ telescope from Apache Point (One of the main scopes that EIU will use), and the new 50″ scope that is in the construction stage now

Galileoscopes Are Here! August 17, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, IYA 2009, Observatory.
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The International Year of Astronomy,2009, is approaching an end, but he universe is just too big, and too much fun to spend only one year talking about it.

Galileoscope

Galileoscope

As part of a lasting legacy, that will continue for years to come, the EIU Observatory and Physics Department, through a private donor, has donated 13 Galileoscopes, along with 6 tripods, to the third grade of  Carl Sandberg school, in Charleston Iliinois. That’s one for every classroom, and five extra that can be checked out by any third grade teacher. The Galileoscope is one of the cornerstone projects of the International Year of Astronomy. It is a HIGH quality 50mm (the diameter of the front objective lens) refracting telescope with 25 and 50 power magnification.

Third grade teachers Mrs Conwell and Mrs Sardella inspecting telescopes

Third grade teachers Mrs Conwell and Mrs Bosler inspecting telescopes

These are the perfect beginners telescopes for observing the moon and the planets, along with some deep sky objects, like the Orion Nebula and the Pleiades Cluster. The kits will be assembled soon and ready for observing in the fall .

Future Astronomer

Future Astronomer or Astrophysicist

Galaxy Zoo visits EIU MSNS Students August 13, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Galaxy.
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If you are looking to become a citizen scientist there is no better way  than a to go the Galaxy Zoo web site and become a  “zooite”.  My graduate level Astronomy for Teachers class was lucky enough to have an introduction to the project from one of the Galaxy Zoo researchers Georgia Bracey.

Georgia Bracey explaining Galaxy Zoo

Georgia Bracey explaining Galaxy Zoo

The Galaxy Zoo files contain almost a quarter of a million galaxies which have been imaged with a camera attached to the robotic telescope from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. In order to understand how these galaxies — and our own — formed, they need your help to classify them according to their shapes — a task at which your brain is better than even the fastest computer.
Teachers Learning about Galaxy Zoo
EIU MSNS Teachers Learning about Galaxy Zoo

More than 150,000 people have taken part in Galaxy Zoo so far, producing a wealth of valuable data and sending telescopes on Earth and in space chasing after their discoveries. Zoo 2 focuses on the nearest, brightest and most beautiful galaxies. The newest project added is the HUNT FOR SUPERNOVAE . If your lucky , you could also be one of the people to be to discover whole new classes of objects like “Hanny’s Voorwerp” or the “Green Peas Galaxies

Hanny's Voorwerp (Green Object)

Hanny's Voorwerp (Green Object)

"Green Pea" Galaxies

"Green Pea" Galaxies

Perseid Meteor Shower tonight! August 11, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, meteor.
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The Perseids are the remnants of comet Swift-Tuttle that passed by Earth in 1992. This regular event offers some of the best naked eye astronomy. The naked eye is the best instrument to use.

Astronomers are now estimating a double peak this year for viewers in the eastern portion of North America on Wednesday morning the 12th of August 2009. One peak should occur around 1:00 a.m. EST and the other peak around 5:30 a.m. EST.

Look to the North East after midnight. and you should see a score of meteors every hour. If you miss it tonight you can still see some activity over the next two days.