End of Term II Part 1

The last couple of weeks of Term 2 were rather busy for the Telescopes in Schools program, with a record 7 schools observing on the last week. Everyone was making use of the great weather and clear skies after almost two whole weeks of constant rain. Obviously way too much to put all in one post, so enjoy the next week of updates and images as we continue to explore some astrophotography and introduce a new school to the program.

First up are the last two reports from the girls at Pascoe Vale Girls College.

Tuesday 18th June 2013

Gaby aligning the telescope

Gaby aligning the telescope

On the 18th of June 2013 classes 9H and 9C had the fantastic opportunity to look through a telescope. We were very fortunate to have such a clear night for we were able to see the brilliant sights of the moon and the planet Saturn. Whilst gazing at the moon we were able to depict all its craters that were made from meteoroids. There were shadows and even craters within craters. It definitely wasn’t an image that you see every day. Saturn’s ring was also clearly visible through the telescope as were its many moons. When clouds crossed over our view of the moon we were given a stunning image to perceive: a moon halo. All the colours of the rainbow formed luminous rings around it. We got many great snapshots of everything we saw. It may have been a freezing cold night, but the sensational views were worth it!

Holding a captivated audience as I point out the features of the night sky

Holding a captivated audience as I point out the features of the night sky

Hala Spear 9C, Maryam El-Ali 9C, Leyla Gulsen 9H, Delara ER 9H, Elisa Yazici 9H

Other comments:

The moon’s craters!! It was so, so amazing!!I had never seen anything so extraordinary. The craters and everything about the moon was the highlight of my night. It was great that we got to see it in such detail. Hala Spear

Students and teacher at the Year 9 viewing night

Students and teacher at the Year 9 viewing night

My favourite part was when I saw the moon up so close. It was an unbelievable moment! Elisa Yazici

Tuesday 25th June

The night was clear and still. From the naked eye the stars above were just small balls of gas but from the telescope the sky came alive.

Students and parents at Pascoe Vale Girls College ready to view Saturn through the telescope

Students and parents at Pascoe Vale Girls College ready to view Saturn through the telescope

Saturn was a small faded yellow button sized ball with rings orbiting around it. The stars viewed varied from the multi-coloured spectacle known as the Jewel Box Cluster to the white flames of the Omega Centauri and the vibrant blue glow that the Southern Pleiades Cluster produced. The telescope also showed open clusters of stars which were part of the star sign Scorpio.

More students and parents at Pascoe Vale Girls College

More students and parents at Pascoe Vale Girls College

The iPad proved a vital item of the evening and a source of amusement for all. Through the Go Sky-Watch app we were able to see the names of the stars and constellations that were visible through the sky above us. The evening was an overall success and a worthwhile event for all.

By Monique Nair, Kara Manoussakis and Jessica Ridgeway

Other comments:

I liked the Jewel Box Cluster! We were talking about how different some stars look and how beautiful they appear. Claudette Mansour

We also spent a bit of time on some astrophotography over these two nights. On the first evening, we attached a Canon EOS 400D to the telescope. The issue with this camera is the absence of liveview which makes it quite difficult to focus the image and needs to be done by trial and error. Hence in this shot of the Butterfly Cluster, many of the stars are not circular. You do get a very good indication of the rainbow colours of the stars in this cluster though. The camera was set to 15 sec exposure time and ISO of 400. The after image processing included small adjustments to the brightness and contrast in the Canon software package.

Butterfly Cluster M6 taken with Canon EOS 400D attached to the 12" Meade. Consists of one 15 sec exposure.

Butterfly Cluster M6 taken with Canon EOS 400D attached to the 12″ Meade. Consists of one 15 sec exposure.

The next week, we attached the school’s camera which is a Canon EOS 1100. Glad to say we are getting better at the focussing and we continued to play around with the settings. This time we focussed on C76, another open cluster. This time the exposure time was set to 10 sec and the ISO 800. Two of the best images were then layered on top of each, aligned with 50% transparency for the top layer in the freeware package GIMP. A tutorial of this method can be found on Steve’s Digicam site.

Open Cluster C76 taken with Canon EOS 1100. Two 10 sec images layered using GIMP

Open Cluster C76 taken with Canon EOS 1100. Two 10 sec images layered using GIMP

As you can see our astrophotography is coming along quite nicely. Certainly the students and teachers were amazed at the spectrum of colours visible in these images.

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