On any given night, if you go out to a dark sky and watch the stars, you'll be able to see about one meteor streak by per hour as a piece of rock enters the atmosphere and burns up.
During meteor showers however, one can see as many as 50 to 100 per hour. We see these showers when the Earth crosses the path of debris left behind from a comet. Since we cross a number of the same paths year after year in the same direction, meteors from individual showers appear to come from the same spot in the sky each year and are named after the constellation that the spot is near. The paths these meteors take can cross the entire sky and the spot they radiate from is also fairly large. This makes observing meteor showers something you wouldn't want to do with a telescope. The field of view is so small you'd miss most of the show. A better way to see a meteor shower is to find a dark clearing away from lights, lie down on a tarp or blanket and look up at the sky. For more information on meteor showers see Sky and Telescope's meteor page.
Other objects better seen with the naked eye include human-made satellites including the International Space Station (ISS). These also appear in the sky too briefly and move too fast to easily catch in the telescope, generally crossing the entire sky in a few minutes. The Human Space Flight page will tell you where and when to look for the ISS. http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/home/index.html
The dark, star-filled night skies that still prevail in New Hampshire are an important but diminishing natural resource for anyone interested in stargazing. The pale arc of the Milky Way, the constellations, bright planets and an occasional passing comet that are easily seen on moonless nights form an essential component of the state’s rural character – and a part of nature now lost to most Americans who live in densely lighted urban areas where “light pollution” washes out the stars.
The visibility of stars is impaired by “light pollution” caused primarily by stray upward illumination from poorly designed outdoor lighting. Upward-beamed light reflects off dust particles and fine water droplets in the atmosphere to cause “sky glow” that can be brighter than the stars. Sky glow can be seen when driving in the dark countryside toward a brightly-lit urban area, where a bowl of light appears to hover over the distant city.
New Hampshire’s dark skies have more than aesthetic value. They are part of the rural experience. Go outside your house and look into the night sky. Is your neighborhood significantly impacted by “light pollution”? What can you do to reduce the light pollution or protect your dark skies?
Check out the NH Department of Environmental Services advice at: http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/repp/documents/ilupt_chpt_3.4.pdf
If you want a place with no stray man-made light for astronomy you can go to NH’s North Country. See stop 19 on this Road Trip.
As telescopes become more and more powerful, we essentially travel closer and closer to the stars. Galileo first turned an optical telescope toward the sky in 1610. Before this, humans relied solely on their eyes to observe the heavens. The unaided eye can see detail as fine as approximately 100 arcseconds. Galileo was able to resolve 10 arcseconds features. This mere 10-fold increase in optical resolution allowed Galileo to see moons around Jupiter and craters on our own Moon. The Hubble Space Telescope sees at about 0.1 arcseconds, a hundred time improvement over Galileo's scope.
What resolution is your or your friend’s telescope? If you don’t have access to a telescope, the New Hampshire Astronomical Society places telescopes in selected libraries in New Hampshire each year. A few libraries have received them as gifts; some libraries have opted to purchase their telescope. http://nhastro.com/ltp.php See if your library has a telescope, will request one from NHAS, or knows someone who has a telescope you can use. If you can’t access a telescope try binoculars.
What other telescopes have you used and what resolution did they have? When you visit the observatories in New Hampshire, ask about the specifics of each telescope. Compare the resolutions of the various telescopes you use. Which is the most memorable telescope in New Hampshire? Why? How can you access a telescope with greater resolution?
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center houses a state-of-the-art planetarium where visitors virtually travel across the universe with shows ranging from black holes to ice worlds. Interactive exhibits and simulations provide an array of astronomical exploration on all aspects of astronomy, including planetary geology, earth science, spectroscopy, space exploration, cosmology and more. An observatory offers two telescopes for practical exploration, one for nighttime skies and one for solar observation. The observatory is open each Friday night and during special events. Call 271-7827 or go on-line http://www.starhop.com for more information and a show schedule.
MSDC also hosts the NH Astronomy Bowl. The Astronomy Bowl is a statewide competition for high school students. Teams compete in answering questions about constellations, planets, stars and other objects projected in the Discovery Center's planetarium. The top three winners receive commemorative astronomy bowls and scholarship prizes. Does your High School have a team? If so, join or help as a volunteer. If not, why don’t you start one?
St. Paul’s astronomy program includes stellar astronomy, galactic astronomy, advanced research in astronomy and astrophotography with super fast film baked in a hydrogen bath.
St. Paul’s students and faculty conduct observing and research using the Hawley Observatory, a complex of four domes and additional buildings. The flagship telescope is a 0.7-meter altitude-azimuth mounted reflecting telescope equipped for either eyepiece viewing or CCD imaging. The Lowell Observatory houses an FC125 refracting telescope on an equatorial mount. The telescope is equipped for viewing through an eyepiece as well as SLR-camera imaging.
The Solar Observatory is a bare cement pier configured to support a heliostat. The sunlight is sent underground down a wide tube. The tube runs out of the side of the hill before entering into Building One where an instrument bench may be used to analyze the light.
Dome 2 houses the 8-inch Takahashi Newtonian telescope currently configured for advanced research with the CCD camera. The comparable reflector in Dome 3 has a solar filter and dSLR camera.
The dual mount in Dome 3 supports a Takahashi reflecting telescope and a Questar Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, suitable for simultaneous white-light imagery and grating spectroscopy or polarimetry.
Housed among the domes is the Chart House including a library, classroom, and image-processing laboratory plus two shops: the Alumni Telescope control room and instrument storage.
While school is in session, they open the observatory to the general public on occasion. You can check out their website to see when the next open session will be http://astro.sps.edu/While you’re at the website check out the student-generated collections of images taken at Hawley Observatory. http://astro.sps.edu/photogalleries/andykohl/
Public observing sessions are held at UNH’s Observatory on the first and third Saturday of every month from 8-10 or 9-11 pm. These sessions are free and great for children, especially first graders and older. Special arrangements can be made for groups to have a private viewing session at no charge. If you have a group please inquire at the UNH Physics Department.
The Observatory is located on the outskirts of campus heading towards Woodman Horticultural Farm. For directions go to: http://www.physics.unh.edu/observatory/directions
This UNH Observatory is used strictly for educational purposes. While it might be possible to do some rudimentary research with a telescope this size, these days it is more of a ‘scope for dedicated amateurs’. UNH’s High Energy Astrophysics research group does do astrophysical research, but uses a telescope (COMPTEL) on an orbiting satellite – the Gamma Ray Observatory. Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, COMPTEL looks at light of much higher energy, and therefore much higher frequency than we can see directly with our eyes. Stop by the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space and check out the model of the Gamma Ray Observatory satellite. http://wwwgro.unh.edu/comptel/comptel_unh.html
UNH Physics Department hosts an annual New England Fall Astronomy Festival at the UNH Observatory. See http://physics.unh.edu/observatory/NEFAF for the latest information.
The University of New Hampshire owns and operates a neutron monitor, part of a network of over 100 in the world. This monitor has been in operation since 1964. It was designed in the 1950’s as a means to study the sun, cosmic rays, and the effect cosmic rays have on earth systems. The data serves as a base line for data collected for local and deep space research (Voyager, Pioneer, GRO, ACE, to name a few). For the pressure corrected 10-second count rate detected by the Durham monitor over a two week period go to:http://ulysses.sr.unh.edu/NeutronMonitor/images/Durham_2Weeks.gif
Cosmic rays are energetic particles found in space and filter through our atmosphere. Cosmic rays have come from all directions in space and the origination of many of these rays is unknown.
In the past, cosmic rays have been referred to as "galactic cosmic rays", because we did not know where they originated. Now scientists have determined that the sun discharges a significant amount of these high-energy particles. "Solar cosmic rays" (cosmic rays from the sun) originate in the sun's chromosphere. Most solar cosmic ray events correlate relatively well with solar flares. Much about solar modulation of cosmic rays was deduced in the 1900’s using direct measurements by neutron monitors.
The UNH neutron monitor is housed in a quanset-style building near the UNH Dairy barns. You can see the building from Route 4. Find the hut and take your picture standing next to it; read about Dr. Jack Lockwood who built the first neutron monitor at UNH and find where the first one was located before it was moved to its present location. Then find the monitor’s data on-line. What can we learn from this data?
The Phillips Exeter Academy Grainger Observatory includes three domed observatories, a heated classroom building with library, and numerous additional instruments to assist students with their astronomical research The observatory is used by the astronomy courses at the Academy as well as by other courses. The Granger Observatory is also open to the public on clear Friday evenings when school is in session. Stop by one Friday night and learn about their telescope. How is it different and similar to the others in the state?
The Exeter Astronomy Conference will be held three times over the next six years, starting in 2013. It is a weeklong meeting of secondary school astronomy educators. The goal is for the participants to share their experience as astronomy educators, generate long-term collaborations between astronomy programs at various schools, and learn about changes to the science of astronomy and to astronomy education.
Ambrose Swasey (December 19, 1846–June 15, 1937) was a mechanical engineer, inventor, entrepreneur, and astronomer who was born and died near Exeter NH. He co-founded the Warner & Swasey Company, known for its work on astronomical observatories and equipment. Swasey realized that obtaining contracts to build large astronomical observatories provided publicity for their company.
In 1885 Swasey completed work at McCormick Observatory in Virginia, on its 45-foot dome, which was the largest in the world at that time, and had a unique, 3 shutter design. In 1887, Swasey built the mount for the 36-inch refracting telescope at Lick Observatory in California. In 1898, he manufactured a dividing engine for the U.S. Naval Observatory in Mississippi that was used to make the meridian circles. The building and dome of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia were made by the Warner and Swasey Co.
Locate some of the observatories designed and built by Swasey’s company. Are there any in New Hampshire?
He was born and died on Fort Rock Farm near Exeter. Can you find the farm? It’s between the Squamscott River and the Henderson-Swasey Town Forest. What is it being used for now? What else is in Exeter was a gift to the town from Ambrose Swasey?
Check out the mid-winter all-night observing session at the New Hampshire Astronomical Society observatory in Hillsborough, NH. NH Astronomical Society is part of NASA's Night Sky Network.
NHAS is a volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to furthering public awareness of Astronomy. They offer public observing sessions, demonstrations, astronomical slide shows, discussions, and talks. NHAS provides these services at your location on request and free of charge to any organization, including schools, libraries, clubs, etc.
Regular monthly events include a "Skywatch" open to the public at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH and club meetings including a presentation on a specific aspect of astronomy. NHAS also sponsors regular events open to members and guests including the mid-Winter all-night observing session noted above; the annual Messier Marathon held in the Spring; promotion of International Astronomy Day events for the public in May; mid-Summer all-night observing sessions at the Society's Hillsborough observatory; and a late-Summer trip to Springfield, Vermont for the annual Stellafane meeting of amateur telescope makers and astronomers. Their calendar of events is published on their website at: http://www.nhastro.com/. Free skywatch on the 1st Friday of each month
If you are interested in astronomy, this is a great group to become involved in, plus you have to be a member or a member’s guest to attend the mid-winter all-night observing session!
Interferometry is Telescope Teamwork. Interferometry is the process of coupling two or more telescopes together to build an aperture equal to the separation of the telescopes. Sounds too good to be true, but it is a real phenomenon and we use this technique today.
Radio astronomers were the first to capitalize on interferometry. Radio telescopes can provide in-depth observations of black holes as well as a variety of other astronomical phenomena. With advance radio interferometry, astronomers plan to image the region surrounding the suspected supermassive black hole at the center of our own galaxy, called Sagittarius A. This black hole is no longer active: that is, it is no longer pulling in matter with much strength. With a lower flow of matter, radio waves may be the dominant form of radiation emitted. Mind you, imaging a black hole requires 0.000001 arcsecond resolution!
In the late 1990s, the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) opened for business. This string of ten 25-meter radio telescopes scattered from Hawaii to St. Croix and as far north as Washington and New Hampshire achieves a resolution 400 times better than Hubble -- over 0.001 arcsecond resolution.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) operates this system of ten identical radio-telescope antennas controlled from a common headquarters and working together as a single instrument. The radio signals received by each individual antenna contribute part of the information used to produce images of celestial objects. At the 177th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC, in 2011, VLBA researchers announced an amazing feat: they had used the VLBA to peer, with stunning accuracy, three times as far into the universe as they had just two years earlier. New measurements with the VLBA have placed a galaxy called NGC 6264 at a distance of 450 million light-years from Earth, with an uncertainty of no more than 9 percent.
The NRAO facility in New Hampshire is in Hancock. Check out the real time photo of the Hancock National Radio Astronomy Observatory by their webcam: http://www.vlba.nrao.edu/sites/SITECAM/HNcam.shtml
The Hancock site is called Windy Row and is located north-northwest of Peterborough NH. It is pretty easy to get to but the observatory is fenced in so viewing is from outside of the fence.
Find the specs for the Hancock telescope: diameter of its antenna, coverage, observation type and frequency bands. What do all these specs tell you about this telescope? Learn more about the many discoveries made by the Radio astronomy at: http://www.nrao.edu/
Keene Amateur Astonomers Club owns and operates the Sullivan Observatory just northeast of the city of Keene. There are two permanent telescopes kept at the observatory. They are a 12 1/2” Newtonian reflector with an equatorial mount and a 15” Obsession reflector with a Dobsonian mount.
The Keene Amateur Astronomers Club is open to the community for observing the night sky and they also provide educational programs for local public schools, libraries and colleges. Check out their calendar for the next observing night at Sullivan Observatory: http://www.keeneastronomy.org/calendar.html
The club meets monthly. You’re welcome at one of their regular membership meetings at Keene State College or at the Sullivan Observatory. Meet the club members, look around, talk up a storm, ask questions, be nosy, and find out more about them. You only have to be interested in the universe to join.
Go visit the oldest scientific building on the Dartmouth College campus: the Shattuck Observatory. Held inside the Shattuck Observatory, is a 134 year-old, 9.5-inch refractor telescope.
The observatory was built in 1854. Its construction and equipment costs were covered by a gift of $7,000 by Boston physician Dr. George C. Shattuck, Dartmouth class of 1803, who stipulated that the Trustees match the gift with an additional $4,000. In 1955, the building was renovated and its original dome replaced, but otherwise the building remains substantially unaltered since its first construction. Many astronomy classes use the observatory.
For research, Dartmouth owns a share of the largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere, the 11-meter Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), as well as the MDM Observatory, consisting of 1.3 and 2.4 meter telescopes, on Kitt Peak in Arizona.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers free viewing through their campus astronomical telescopes to all Dartmouth students and to the public. Most often, the astronomical observing sessions use an 8-inch reflector telescope in a small building near the Observatory. The public viewing nights are only offered during the school terms.
Observing of the Moon, planets and stars is available on Friday nights; and on Sunday afternoons from noon to 2 p.m., they’re open for daytime solar viewing of sunspots and prominences. For directions and a schedule go to: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~physics/news/observing.html
High-tech blimps could soon provide Hubble-like views of the sky at a small fraction of the cost of a space-based mission. Several companies, including Lockheed Martin, have been developing solar-powered blimps that pilot themselves and could remain aloft for months or even years at a time.
Astronomers have dreamed of using these blimps because they would operate at altitudes of 20 kilometers or higher - above 95% of the atmosphere. Telescopes at such altitudes would provide clear, space-like views of the heavens. But actually building these floating observatories remained out of reach for decades because engineers ran into hurdles developing lightweight batteries, solar cells and a skin-like cover for the blimps.
"All that has moved forward in the last ten years, so we're now on the verge of being able to do this," says Robert Fesen of Dartmouth College in Hanover. Fesen has authored a new study on the benefits of building these blimp-borne telescopes. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9377-blimpborne-telescopes-could-rival-hubble.html
Visit the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth and learn more about Professor Fesen, the Departments research, and SALT. http://www.dartmouth.edu/~physics/research/astrophysics.html
Dartmouth is part of an international consortium that built the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). It is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere that can detect objects one billion times dimmer than the faintest visible to the unaided eye. It has the power to tackle fundamental questions about the Universe, such as what the Universe was like when the first stars and galaxies were forming. http://www.salt.ac.za/home
The Mark Sylvestre Planetarium in Boyd Science Center at Plymouth State University provides a virtual window on the universe, with programs presented by NASA Solar System Ambassador Sally Jean Jensen and the Planetarium Director. The planetarium is a resource for the entire community.
Arrange to take your friends and family or scout troop for a visit. It is a 31-seat facility with program for adults and children, with accessible seating, and a Starlab Sky projector.
Attend one of the Mount Washington Observatory’s (MWO) programs on astronomy such as Studying Stars from the Summit. Studying Stars provides an overview of basic observational astronomy. Learn about how to navigate through the night sky to find constellations and prominent stars. Weather permitting, put your new knowledge to the test in finding the real objects in the real night sky from New England's highest summit. How would you like to see Jupiter and its moons from the top of Mount Washington?
If you can’t make to the top of Mount Washington check out the webcam network on the mountain: http://www.mountwashington.org/weather/cam/
For any adult who wants to understand some of the fundamentals of astronomy and is curious about the universe in which we live, White Mountain Community College offers an astronomy course. It is a course that does not require a strong background in algebra or trigonometry. You can learn basic laws of astronomy and explore the locations of the planets and stars during the day or night as seen from any location on earth at any time - past, present, or future. You do not need a real telescope to do this. Instead, you learn astronomy by using popular "virtual astronomy" software packages, such as "Starry Night." There are numerous demonstrations and hands-on student activities throughout the course.
Even if you’re a high school student you may be able to take this astronomy course for college credit through the Running Start program. The Community College System offers this Running Start program, enabling high school students to enroll in college courses at a significant reduction in tuition. North Country high school students have the opportunity to earn White Mountains Community College credit taking courses taught at their high school during the regular school day.
If you are a North Country amateur astronomer, WMCC could use your help. WMCC is working with UNH on potentially moving a dome and telescope from Bartlett, NH to the WMCC campus to establish an observatory available for students and the community in the North Country. If you are interested in having an astronomical observatory in Berlin, NH contact WMCC. They can use your help.
The Great Northern Moose Lodge hosts astronomy and star gazing weekends. It is also used by the NH Amateur Astronomical Society because of the dark skies.
The Great Northern Moose Lodge was originally built to serve as a hunting and fishing lodge. The area's abundant wildlife is often as close as the lodge's backyard. Their area is considered by some to be a premier winter deer bedding site. Today it is the last structure along the Androscoggin River, on New Hampshire's Route 16, before entering the 13 Mile Woods Conservation Area. It is located in the town of Dummer named after the former Massachusetts Bay Lieutenant Governor William Dummer. Compare the night skies at the Great Northern Moose Lodge to your back yard.
The Fairbanks Museum’s Planetarium turned 50 in 2011. Planetariums offer an opportunity to see the night skies and be guided through the planets and constellations regardless of the time of day and weather. To celebratemore than a half-century of exploring the universe under their dome, they’re offering a series of presentations about our solar system and beyond. It’s a great time to attend a program at the Fairbanks Planetarium: http://www.fairbanksmuseum.org/planetarium
How do their programs differ from the Sylvestre Planetarium in Plymouth?
The Museum’s ongoing astronomy programs include Eye on the Night Sky radio broadcasts on Vermont Public Radio and an annual Perseid Star Party in August. Why Perseid?
New Hampshire is connected to the Hubble Telescope in several ways. Astronaut and New Hampshire native Rick Linnehan was one of the astronauts who serviced the Hubble Space Telescope. He was a mission specialist on STS 109, the fourth Hubble servicing mission. The crew of STS 109 successfully upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope’s systems over the course of five consecutive EVAs leaving it with a new power control unit, improved solar arrays, the new Advanced Camera for Surveys and an experimental refrigeration unit for cooling the dormant Near Infrared Camera.
Linnehan completed three of the five space walks and served as coordinator for two others on STS 109. As Coordinator, Linnehan was responsible for operating a handheld laser range-finding device, aiming it through the shuttle windows at the Hubble Space Telescope providing Shuttle Commander Scott Altman with supplementary distance and closing rate information.
When the Hubble Space Telescope was originally launched, one of its instruments, the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer(NICMOS), was intended to be kept at cryogenic temperatures using boil-off from a solid block of nitrogen. Mission time for NICMOS was expected to be over 5 years, however, after less than 3 years the system warmed up and no nitrogen was left.
NASA contracted with Creare Inc., a small engineering research and development company in Hanover, New Hampshire to develop a space cryogenic refrigerator technology. Creare quickly fabricated a duplicate of a recently completed long-term ground cooler, space qualified the system on a Shuttle flight, and then supported installation of the system on the HST. The turbo-Brayton cryocooler produced by Creare was installed on the HST in March 2002.
Make a scale model of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope using easy-to-find supplies and these printable instructions. http://hubblesite.org/the_telescope/hand-held_hubble/ Where would the cryocooler been installed?
In one of its most spectacular attempts to capture the black hole phenomenon, the Hubble Space Telescope peered into the core of galaxy M87 and found a jet of particles racing out at nearly the speed of light. This jet of electrons and sub-atomic particles stretches for 5,000 light years – just out to beyond the galaxy’s borders – and is powered by a super massive black hole. It took Hubble’s fantastic resolution to capture such a clear image of the M87 galaxy core. Can we go a million times deeper to capture a picture of the black hole? Yes, we can. What will the black hole look like?
What do you know about Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Telescope? What are the characteristics of the environment in which the instruments on Hubble and Webb have to survive? What is an important difference between Webb and Hubble which affects repairs?
Find out about your local amateur astronomy group. Maybe it is Mount Washington Valley Astronomy. Mount Washington Valley Astronomy was established as a resource center for the many amateur astronomers and astro-photographers in and around the Mount Washington Valley. Their goal is to provide a place where people of all astronomy levels, beginner to expert, can share ideas, get answers to questions, share photos and information and contact others with an interest in astronomy. Or maybe your local group is Keene’s Astronomy Club. If not, everyone in New Hampshire is welcome to join the NH Astronomical Society.
23.Host a Program: Solar System Ambassador, the Saturn Observation Campaign volunteer, a Sidewalk Astronomer or a Skywatch
Sidewalk Astronomers are amateur astronomers who offer observing opportunities for everyone that walks by. All Sidewalk Astronomers events are free. A sidewalk astronomer takes their telescope to the public - on street corners, public parks, in front of bookstores -wherever there are crowds of people.
A "Skywatch" is simply a gathering of amateur astronomers with a focus on outreach and education for a private group or for the public at large by the NH Astronomical Society. A Skywatch is by definition "beginner-friendly." At a Skywatch the focus is on giving you and your group the most enjoyable and educational experience possible!
The NH Astronomical Society sponsors Sidewalk Astronomy on the Saturday night closest to first quarter Moon (weather permitting) in Portsmouth's Market Square, right across the street from Breaking New Grounds Coffee Shop. Observing starts at dusk and goes to the wee hours, all year round. In Fall/Winter we add Jupiter and the Galilean moons to our list of targets, and in the Spring/Summer it's Saturn and its rings. The moon's craters, rays, rills, lava flows and mountains are always spectacular around first quarter moon. A schedule can be found on the club calendar.
NHAS also provides a free skywatch on the first Friday of every month in the parking lot of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord. Here you will find a dozen or more telescopes all set up with club members ready to explain and interpret what you are seeing. There are always programs in the Discovery Center as well (entrance fee required) which will increase your awareness and understanding of the Universe.
Finally, NHAS has partnered with the Rey Center to offer a free outdoor observing session at the Curious George Cottage on the Saturday night closest to new moon (i.e. no moon visible in the sky), again weather permitting. These events are in addition to the occasional indoor lectures sponsored in cooperation with the Discovery Center.
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