Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kitt Peak National Observatory -- Post 2

There is so much happening out here in Tucson that I am not able to keep current to the day, or the day before as I like, to update the blog. For this posting I am going to include the rest of the pictures I took Sunday night at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. I’ll try to catch up this week before I leave Arizona to include pictures from Tucson Mountain Park, the gem show, Saguaro National Park, and the author’s event that happened last night. It was a real privilege to be included with the group of six authors. I will say that I am glad my short speech is over and that feedback was very positive.

The pictures below document the variety of telescope structures that exist on Kitt Peak. The first is the one you can see from the highway.

This odd looking structure is the most interesting telescope on the mountain. It is used exclusively to study our sun. If any of you have ever used a magnifying lens to concentrate light from the sun,, you know how hot it can get. In order for scientists to study our sun, it is necessary to cool the telescope. Thousands of feet of cooling tubes are used to control the temperature.

Here are some more of the telescope domes and other buildings on the Kitt Peak grounds.

And how about a couple of more sunset photos….

This shot is hard to make out, but it was taken inside one of the telescope domes. Once the sun goes below the horizon, you cannot use any white light on top of Kitt Peak. Thus, I was not able to use a flash.

This shot was taken inside the visitor’s center of a display showing how big some of the telescope mirrors are. The biggest at Kitt Peak is the 4 meter. When it was installed 20 years ago or so, it was the biggest in the world. Now it ranks around the 25th. Efforts are under way to build a multi-mirror telescope that will be a total of 100 meters in diameter! It is being built in Tucson.

Since we were so high above the valley and away from smog and light pollution, I just had to get another picture of the moon.

Here are a couple pictures of nebulae we were able to look at through the telescope. The first is the Eskimo Nebula, a round cloud of gas ejected by a dying star. This nebula was discovered in 1787. The second is the Orion Nebula. It is located around 1,500 light years away and is 30 light years across. It contains enough material to make 10,000 stars the size of our sun. I must admit that this was my favorite object that we viewed. Although these images were displayed on the computer next to the telescope, we were able to see the images quite clearly. The only difference is that our eyes were not able to see the color the way that digital cameras are able to pick up.

This picture, of course, is Jupiter. It is actually a computer image and is a bit larger than what we actually saw looking through the telescope. We were able to see four of Jupiter’s moons, which I thought was totally awesome!

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