The day started out as partly cloudy with a blustery wind up to about 15mph. At 6:30am, the sun was well up, and 45 minutes it both cleared the trees and was to start a morning-long experience with the little planet Mercury crossing its face. Those 45 minutes came and went, and the clouds stayed until about 10am, when things started to clear out. We even had a few strong rain showers, associated with the looming cumulonimbus clouds that were rolling by. The wind picked up, the skies cleared, and the sun came out to play!
We had two telescopes in operation. The newest, the 16″ SCT in the Kurtz Dome was operating with a newly constructed solar filter: Baader solar film and cereal boxes combined with hot melt glue and duct tape. This makes for an excellent off-aperture 6″ screen for the monster scope. The other was our Heliostat which has an inverted Byers fork mount that moves a primary flat mirror to reflect sunlight onto the secondary and then into a 6″ refractor waiting through a hole in the Chart House wall in the library. We had some excellent views and enjoyed visitors from NH and MA as well as several astronomy classes and some members of the astronomy club.
9 May Transit of Mercury seen through the 16″ SCT. A Nikon D7000 was used to snap this image which shows the small round dot of Mercury along with two sunspot groups.
The working end of the 16″ SCT with the D7000 attached for prime focus work.
The heliostat in use. This is also a unique selfie opportunity.
Gravitational Waves Explained: What The Discovery Means for Science
Last week, scientists made headlines with the announcement that they’d detected and recorded the first gravitational wave in human history. John Blackwell, Phillips Exeter science instructor and Director of the Grainger Observatory, explains how the discovery proves the last predicted outcome of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and gives astronomers the first new way of looking at the universe since Galileo pointed his telescope at the night sky.
September 27th lunar eclipse was an awesome experience from Exeter, NH. Well over 100 people came to the observatory for a visit and a look through the telescopes while the eclipse was under way. At moonrise, I thought there was actually someone with a spotlight in the adjoining fields…. nope! That was the moon! It was BRIGHT! Bright enough to take this 5 second exposure of the fields and fog:
Fields and Fog with Full Moon
As the event ensued, we had a few cameras out there: one taking wide field shots of the event every 10 minutes or so, one taking closeup images with a 200mm telephoto, and some others roaming around. The following two images are of the event with the images stacked in PhotoShop. The moon’s dimming is very much evident here:
Wide field series of images of the eclipse.
This image shows the eclipse with deeper exposures. The stars become evident as the moon dims. Note to the lower right the light pollution from Boston, to our south. As with all photos in this blog, click on the images for higher resolution!
Wide field series with deeper exposures.
This series below is from the 200mm lens and follows the eclipse from full moon (no eclipse) to totality. Photoshop wass used to stack the images. Click for higher resolution.
There is an excellent opportunity coming up to see a total lunar eclipse this September… in just a few weeks! Plan now! This one is visible from western Europe, Africa and the Americas. Eclipse timings here:
Lunar Eclipse Timing (all times UT) September 27-28, 2015
00:10 Moon enters penumbra (not visible)
01:07 Partial Eclipse Begins
02:11 Totality begins
02:47 Mid Eclipse
03:24 Totality ends
04:27 Partial eclipse ends
05:24 Moon leaves penumbra
So for those in the Eastern time zone which is still in EDT (daylight savings mode), the times are here below….
Lunar Eclipse Timing (all times EDT) September 27-28, 2015 below:
Just back from a trip to Iceland to study geomagnetism and the aurora opportunities there… as well as the incredible geology. Here are some aurora images from the trip all taken with a Nikon D7000 and a variety of lenses. Last is a daytime panoramic view of one of the glacial regions. Enjoy!
If you take a look in the right hand column of this page, you will see a Twitter feed widget. Here, the last five tweets from the observatory (PEA_Obs) will be posted. Look here for announcements about public observing sessions, open houses and weather related information.
Welcome all to the new ExeterAstro blog. The primary focus of this area will be to disseminate news, images and more from the Phillips Exeter Academy observatory in Exeter, NH. Seeing as this is post #1, you might also be interested in following us on FaceBook and Twitter. On Facebook the observatory can be found as the Phillips Exeter Academy Grainger Observatory page. On Twitter we are known as PEA_Obs. The Twitter site is used to present time-dependent information. Examples of this include:
Rapidly changing weather conditions that either open or close the observatory.
Changes to instrument availability and use.
We hope you enjoy this blog and the other social media sites as well.