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Holiday Present for the Observatory December 15, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Observatory.
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The end of the semester is here and the physics students are completing their projects for their third semester senior advanced lab. The third semester is an independent project (read: “give them enough rope to hang themselves”). This semester Alicia made a nice present for the observatory’s spectrometer. A Calibration source.

Alicia and her Project

The spectrometer and camera are sort of dumb. When we take a picture of a star’s spectra the camera assigns a spectral line to a column of pixels on the camera, but it doesn’t know the wavelength corresponding to that column. What Alicia made is a combination Mercury-Neon lamp,  that feeds the light through a  fiber optic wire directly into the spectrometer. The Mercury for the blue end and Neon for the red end of the spectra. We then take a picture of the combination Hg-Ne spectra (whose wavelengths are known) and the computer uses those lines to assign the wavelengths to each column of pixels, thus calibrating it .

We ‘ll now be able to do this from the nice warm control room. No more trudging up to the telescope at 2:00AM, in below zero weather to shine a Hg lamp and take a calibration spectra!

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Comments»

1. Bill Wolf - December 17, 2009

New device: Cool!

SIU t-shirt: Not so much.


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