I brought the scope out to another TVS outreach star party, this time at an elementary school. This was the first time I got a chance to look at the Orion Nebula through the scope and wow, it was impressive. You could easily make out some detail, and this wasn’t even close to a dark site.
This dramatic image offers a peek inside a cavern of roiling dust and gas where thousands of stars are forming. The image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, represents the sharpest view ever taken of this region, called the Orion Nebula. More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear in this image. Some of them have never been seen in visible light. These stars reside in a dramatic dust-and-gas landscape of plateaus, mountains, and valleys that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. The Orion Nebula is a picture book of star formation, from the massive, young stars that are shaping the nebula to the pillars of dense gas that may be the homes of budding stars. The bright central region is the home of the four heftiest stars in the nebula. The stars are called the Trapezium because they are arranged in a trapezoid pattern. Ultraviolet light unleashed by these stars is carving a cavity in the nebula and disrupting the growth of hundreds of smaller stars. Located near the Trapezium stars are stars still young enough to have disks of material encircling them. These disks are called protoplanetary disks or “proplyds” and are too small to see clearly in this image. The disks are the building blocks of solar systems. The bright glow at upper left is from M43, a small region being shaped by a massive, young star’s ultraviolet light. Astronomers call the region a miniature Orion Nebula because only one star is sculpting the landscape. The Orion Nebula has four such stars. Next to M43 are dense, dark pillars of dust and gas that point toward the Trapezium. These pillars are resisting erosion from the Trapezium’s intense ultraviolet light. The glowing region on the right reveals arcs and bubbles formed when stellar winds – streams of charged particles ejected from the Trapezium stars – collide with material. The faint red stars near the bottom are the myriad brown dwarfs that Hubble spied for the first time in the nebula in visi
On the left is an image taken with my phone at the star party, and on the right a Hubble image of the Orion Nebula (Wikipedia). If you look closely, you can make out the line running about 45 degrees to the three stars, as well as the dust cloud just above said stars.
We recently joined a local astronomy club, Tri-Valley Stargazers (TVS for short), and brought the Cave to one of their community outreach programs at the Livermore library. All of the scopes were setup behind the library where we had the best view of the sky. At least a hundred people showed up and we spent about an hour and a half observing the moon, Saturn, the Ptolemy cluster, Andromeda Galaxy, and the Ring Nebula. I was particularly impressed with how well we could see Andromeda and the Ring Nebula. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any pictures, but a student from one of mom’s science classes, Luke Darby, got a few nice photos of the moon through the scope.
Both of these pictures were taken in our backyard with my iPhone mounted on Dad’s TeleVue Ranger scope equipped with a solar filter. Near the peak of the eclipse we could actually make out some details on the moon.
Here is a list of the supplies we used to clean the primary mirror:
Palmolive Ultra Oxy Power Degreaser
91% isopropyl alcohol
Squirt bottle for alcohol
First we carefully removed the mirror from the scope and its housing before placing it in an aluminum tray. We then placed the tray in the sink and rinsed off the surface of the mirror.
After rinsing, the tray was filled with water and a dab of Palmolive. Next we felt very gently along the surface of the mirror for anything still stuck to it, which we then scrubbed off with a cotton ball. Once we were satisfied that the mirror was clean, it was lifted out of the tray and held at an angle as distilled water was poured over it.The mirror was then rinsed with the alcohol squirt bottle and held at an angle while it dried. Finally, the mirror was placed back in the scope.
As you can see in these pictures, cleaning the mirror has significantly increased the sharpness and color of the scope.
Last night was the first time we used the scope to observe the night sky. So far we haven’t made any renovations beside adding a Telrad sight and cleaning up the optics of the finder scope. We observed the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn, using the 20mm, 12mm, and 4mm eyepieces as well as a 24-8mm variable zoom eyepiece. The clock drive helped immensely for taking photos as without it we could only keep an object in its view for a few minutes before having to adjust the scope. Unfortunately we couldn’t get any photos of Saturn last night.