SUMMER PUBLIC OBSERVING NIGHTS
3 May, 2013
The Summer Public Observing schedule has been posted. No reservations are required; all tours start in ASE 2016 on the ground floor of the new Arts & Science Extension.
Please check the Public Tours page for times and dates.
LOSING THE DARK
17 March, 2013
How many stars can you see from your backyard at night? Have you ever seen the Milky Way? For many people living in a city or even a large town, the night sky is a yellow haze, and a glimpse of the Milky Way is a thing of the past.
Light pollution, in the form of unnecessary lighting, is not only stealing our appreciation of the night sky's wonders, but is disrupting wildlife and affecting our health. This insightful 6.5 minute video produced by Loch Ness Productions and the International Dark-Sky Association tells the story of light pollution and how we can work together to mitigate it. We can save money and energy by limiting our outdoor lighting AND regain a starry sky to fill our children with wonder. For more information about how you can help, see the IDA website.
The Latest on the Russian Meteor
23 February, 2013
The fireball that exploded over Russia February 15th left a wake of destruction but thankfully no lost lives. Here's the latest from NASA Science News.
Current estimates give its diameter as it entered the atmosphere, at about 17 metres and its mass at 10,000 tonnes. It was the most powerful meteor strike since 1908, when a meteor exploded over Tunguska, Russia.
The event was not related to the close approach of the 45 metre asteroid 2012 DA14 later that day.
SPRING PUBLIC OBSERVING NIGHTS
4 February, 2013
Public Observing Nights will resume Saturday, 2 March. Reservations are necessary and may be made through Grenfell's Community Education Office. Please check the Public Tours page for times and dates.
Our First Anniversary!
29 October, 2012
One year ago, the 0.60m telescope at the GCO saw "first light".
It's been a busy year. In that time we've gone from basic - for our first 5 months, we didn't even have a proper railing around the observing floor - to operational, with equipped control room and public a display area. Over 730 people have now had a tour of the observatory, through Saturday public nights, school daytime tours (half of the visitors), or other groups.
The arrival of our Apogee U6 CCD camera in late spring meant that we could also begin to do some "science". Throughout the summer months and into early fall, we tested the capabilities of the camera and the telescope.
Whew! That was close! Near-Earth Asteroid 2012 QJ42
13 September, 2012
On the night of 12/13 September, GCO observers recorded the closest approach of Near-Earth asteroid 2012 QJ42. The image at right is one of several hundred 30 second exposures taken over about an hour. The white streak near the centre of the image is the distance the asteroid moved in those 30 s! This is practically zooming.
While the 250 m chunk of rock came no closer than seven times the Earth-Moon distance (just less than 3 million km), far enough away to be completely harmless, that's close in astronomical terms. Thus it has been classified as PHA (a potentially hazardous asteroid) because there's a small chance that it will hit Earth some time in the distant future. The asteroid was discovered on August 26th of this year by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, a project dedicated to searching for near-Earth objects.
FALL PUBLIC OBSERVING NIGHTS
4 September, 2012
Public Observing Nights will resume Saturday, 15 September with two sessions per night. Reservations for may be made through Grenfell's Community Education Office. Please check the Public Tours page for further details.
LIGHT POLLUTION - Bad for the Health, too?
23 July, 2012
Astronomers have fought against unnecessary nighttime illumination for years. Unshielded streetlights and parking lot lighting which shines UP, instead of down, can completely wash out the city-dweller's view of the stars. (How?) More...
But now the American Medical Association has recently released a report entitled "Light Pollution: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting”, which suggests that there may be a number of harmful affects on our health, as well. It’s a review of some of the available research literature on nighttime lighting’s affect on people - from the intense glare of halogen headlights to extended shiftwork and how it can change our body's circadian rhythm.
FIRST STUDENT PHOTOS FROM THE TELESCOPE!
3 April, 2012
This Winter Term saw our first student poster session, as the Physics 2151 class were able to show off (below left) the images they took with a Canon EOS camera attached to the telescope. Despite the terrible weather this term limiting the observing sessions, the enthusiastic students were able to be the first class to use the telescope!
This Fall, students in EaSc 2150: The Solar System will also have opportunities to use the telescope, both for observing and for course projects.
FIRST LIGHT THROUGH THE TELESCOPE!
Saturday 29 October 2011
"First light" through the new Grenfell Observatory 0.61 m telescope! Starlight hit the mirror for the first time. Although partly cloudy, we were able to use "holes" in the clouds for the initial testing.
Ian Huss (left) and Richard Neel (off camera) of DFM Engineering completed the check of the telescope's polar alignment - it's OK! - and initial focusing. On hand to assist was Grenfell's thrilled astronomer Doug Forbes (centre) .
TOUR OF DFM ENGINEERING - TELESCOPE MANUFACTURER
Doug Forbes from the Grenfell Physics department was invited to tour the DFM Engineering facilities just outside of Denver, Colorado and see “some of the bits” of our telescope which had been manufactured already. Dr. Frank Melsheimer and his staff (at right) were extremely welcoming – in fact, the tour lasted all day and included lunch!
DFM Engineering occupies half a dozen work bays of a small industrial mall in Longmont, a suburb to the north of Denver. Frank Melsheimer and his wife Kate, the general manager, have a small company of 16 highly skilled technicians, machinists, fabricators, and computer specialists, who have gained a world-wide reputation for excellence as a result of building more than 85 mid-sized (i.e. 0.4 – 2.4 m) research-grade telescopes and retro-fitting 27 older instruments.
The optical and electro-mechanical drive systems are of their own design and they also write the software which controls the telescope and its dome. Some of their clients have included the Adler Planetarium in Chicago (0.5 m), University of Calgary (major upgrade), University of Michigan (2.4 m), U.S. Naval Observatory (1.3 m), and most recently the University of Victoria (0.8 m).
It was quite exciting to see some of the basic components of our telescope mount sitting on shelves waiting to be assembled and to put faces to the people who will be developing our telescope.
The diagram at left shows some of the major components of a classical Cassegrain reflecting telescope. Light enters the telescope tube from the top and is reflected off the mirror at the bottom of the tube, then back up the tube to a secondary mirror, then back down through a hole in the primary mirror to a scientific instrument or an eyepiece.
At left is the pedestal and fork waiting for their coat of yellow paint, as seen in the diagram above. They are the main components of the telescope mount.
The polished mirror is held in place within the mirror cell at the bottom of the telescope tube.
The whole telescope revolves around the polar axis, which is aligned to celestial North.
One of the drive gears which allows the telescope to follow the stars as the Earth rotates.
Most interesting was a demonstration of the articulated relay eyepiece (ARE) by Frank (who has the telescope end in the image at right) and Kate (holding the eyepiece end). This amazing design, for which Frank won an award, uses a series of relay lenses and folding mirrors to allow the eyepiece to swivel to any orientation and height. Our telescope will be equipped with one of these to accommodate disabled observers and children during public tour nights.
We were also able to see the equipment which Frank has designed and built to grind and polish 1 to 1.8 m mirrors: cranes, mirror cradles, and unique polishing engines and tools. Frank and optical technician, Renee, review each polishing step and test for accuracy using a computer-controlled laser. At the time, they were polishing and testing one of two partially-completed 1.3 m mirrors (image at right) for a pair of telescopes ordered by an Indian research institute. Our mirror, with a diameter of 0.6 m, is too small to be ground at DFM and will be supplied by Star Instruments, Inc. in Georgia, USA.
Mark Kelley, the DFM software specialist, demonstrated the intuitive and versatile interface to the telescope and dome. The computer-controlled movement of the telescope will point to within 10 to 20 arc seconds; the dome is rotated automatically to allow the open slit to follow the sky's movement as the Earth rotates.
Objects for public observing nights can be chosen from standard lists and the telescope can move from one to the next at the touch of a button. Research observing time can be maximized by pre-programming object fields and instrument exposure times; then the telescope can move automatically through the list. We were also able to actually move one of the 0.4 m telescopes they have for systems testing. The set and slew motors were very smooth, with no backlash!
Another highlight of the tour was to see the newly completed 0.8 m telescope for the University of Victoria. DFM had just completed testing and it was awaiting disassembly for shipping to our colleagues there. Our telescope has a smaller mirror and a closed tube assembly, but uses the same size mount.