Friday, January 8, 2010

USU's New 'Scope

Tonight was the monthly Cache Valley Stargazers meeting. We changed locations from Old Main to the Physics Building so we could have access to the new telescope that arrived on Tuesday. But first we had our regularly scheduled meeting, with Michelle Larson speaking on Solar Observing. She had diagrams of how to make a pinhole camera, a picture of one made using an oatmeal container, how to make a sundial, & how to make a solar filter for $15. Shane promised to put her slides on the Stargazers website, so as soon as those are up, I'll link to it.

Now for the new 'scope. The freight elevator to get on the roof requires a key, so people can't just go up there whenever - someone from the USU Physics Department has to be with you. There were 23 of us who went up, & the scope is awesome! It's a 20-inch, Planewave Corrected Dall-Kirkham 'scope, with a parabolic primary mirror, a spherical secondary mirror, & a couple of lenses to correct the aberrations from the spherical mirror. We looked at the Orion Nebula, & most people went home after one look (it is -5°F after all). A few of us, including the 10 year old, stuck around for several looks, & then we aimed the 'scope at Mars. Couldn't see a whole lot of detail on either the Orion Nebula or Mars, but that was due to the H2O Nebula (or the haze in our atmosphere) :-). Mars looked bigger than I had ever seen it, by at least twice. I can't wait 'til I get an opportunity to use the new 'scope on a night without any haze.

In March, there will be an event where the new telescope is open to the public. This will be a joint event between the USU Physics Department and the StarHouse Discovery Center. More details on that will be posted as we get closer to March. Meanwhile, check out the article in Wednesday's Herald Journal about the new 'scope.

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