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30″ TELESCOPE IS IN!: Summer Update 1 August 31, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Observatory, telescopes.
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John Pratte and Bob Holme installing the 30" mirror cell

August 17th was a big day for the EIU Physics department and the Astronomical Research Institute (ARI). We assembled the refurbished 30″ diameter Ritchey–Chrétien telescope. Bob Holmes, director of ARI, and an adjunct faculty member of the EIU Physics department, the Physics students at EIU, John Pratt, and your’s truly have worked for about nine months for this day. If you look at some of the past articles in this blog and at ARI’s site you’ll see some of the history behind this project.

30" Primary Mirror in it cell

First the triangular base was installed; then the rotating cradle that is the Right Ascension Axis, and holds the primary mirror cell, was mounted on motors in the base. Next we used a engine hoist to lift in the steel mirror cell into the cradle so it can pivot on the Declination axis . Finally we install the 30″ mirror in its cell. Now most of the heavy lifting is done, but the cage, or tower, that hold the secondary mirror must still be installed.

Jim Conwell and Bob Holmes

Now comes the part where we put a camera on and see if all the optics and mount are well aligned.

But more on that next time…along with first light photos!


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Star party Open House at EIU

Thanks to all the people who helped at the first open house of the semester. Tyler manning the computer, Maggie on the giant binoculars, and Hannah inside the dome at the main scope ,and the rest of the EIU astronomy club, Josh, Julia, Bob, and Tiandra who answered the questions of the crowd. We had about 140 people last night observing the Ring Nebula and the Hercules Globular Cluster.

Special thanks to Tim McCollum, John Pratte and Dr. Tim Camden for bring out their telescopes for everyone to enjoy.

For more pictures go to http://cyberscience2010.wikispaces.com/Star+Party+082710

Next post: Summer news part I, THE REFURBISHED 30" TELESCOPE IS IN!!

Hamburgers Tonight! August 26, 2010

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Yes it’s really called Gomez’s Hamburger Nebula. A perfect picture for the first Astronomy Club meeting tonight. To learn more about celestial hamburgers, and to eat a few terrestrial ones, along with brats, boca burgers, and and other goodies; come to Dr. Conwell’s house (921 6th street) at 5:30PM,  for the first meeting and cookout of the astronomy club. The Society of physics student will also be there!  If you are new to campus and just curious now’s the perfect time!


Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Observatory.
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EIU Observatory

Welcome to EIU, or welcome back!  The physics department has two events you might want to know about this week.

1. On Thursday at 5:30 PM we are having a cookout for people interested in joining SPS (Society of Physics Students) , and for people interested in the the Astronomy Club. Burgers, brats, and boca burgers, will be grilled up at Dr. Conwell’s house at 921 6th street at 5:30 PM this Thursday the 26th.

2. This Friday we will have the monthly observatory open house, rain or shine. Come look through a 16″ telescope at the ring nebula and the Hercules Cluster. Go to the physics web site and under observatory you’ll find a map of the location of the observatory.

Music on a Planetary Scale: A New Podcast August 20, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Art, Podcast.
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Music on a Planetary Scale


Description: Listen to Mars, now listen to me, now listen to Mars. This is what Mars could sound like, if it sounded like me. Today, we listen to sonification of data, artistic interpretation, and discuss which is ‘better’ and which is ‘more real’.

Bio: Sandy looks at the science and the people in today’s 9-5 pro astronomy world. Born in the heart of a dying star (as we were all), Alex draws from his research, writing, and game design work to bring you the joy of science twice a week at ScientificBlogging.com/skyday– and to launch the first personal science/music satellite via http://ProjectCalliope.com.

Summer News August 17, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Observatory, telescopes.
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EIU Observatory

The traffic in Charleston is picking up as the students start to come back. Even though the blog hasn’t been too active over the summer,  there is lots of good news to report. In the next few days, I’ll be writing about  astronomy news at EIU over the summer. Reports will include the repairs and upgrades at the EIU observatory;   the refurbished 30″ scope and installation, and photos of the 50″ telescope construction at ARI. In the meantime enjoy the last few days of summer vacation.

Perseids Meteor Shower to Peak on Thursday Night! August 10, 2010

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The Perseids are one of the most exciting and dynamic meteor showers; producing fast-moving shooting stars throughout July and August. Expect the “normal” peak of ~100 meteors per hour to occur in the night of August 12-13 between 18h and 7h Universal Time.

The shower surprised on several occasions over the last two decades by showing outbursts of 150 to 400+ meteors/hour due to the Earth passing through regions of higher density in the dust stream (e.g., ZHR ~200 last year). Simulations by Jeremie Vaubaillon and Mikhail Maslov indicate that we may again encounter ‘dust trails’ this year, left behind when the parent , Comet Swift-Tuttle,  passed the Sun in the years 441, 1479 and 1862.

The shower lasts for many days, but according to the International Meteor Organization this year’s peak should occur during a half-day-long window centered on 1:00 Universal Time on August 13th, which is ideal timing for skywatchers in Eurasia. For North Americans, the best viewing will probably be late Thursday night and early Friday morning, August 12-13, or possibly the night before.

In any case, prime viewing for the Perseids is from about 11 p.m. or midnight (local time) until the first light of dawn. This is when the shower’s radiant (its perspective point of origin) is well up in your sky. The higher the radiant, the more meteors you’ll see.

Perseid in the NE. Just before Midnight August 12, Cental Daylight Time