. Ambassadors to the Universe: Observing the Night Sky at Fremont Peak Observatory Tyler Hooks, Jose Lopez, Ricardo Maciel, Cameron Schaefer, Jared WolfeAstronomy, Hartnell College, Salinas, CA 93908 Lukas Bonick, Mentor Abstract In order to assist the resident astronomers at Fremont Peak State park, five student interns and their mentor made bimonthly treks to the observatory to serve as ambassadors of astronomy, and were able to take their classroom knowledge and apply it in a real-world situation. The interns were responsible for interacting with and engaging the public audience via observational astronomy. One way of doing this was via presentations the students were required to give. Each student intern made a PowerPoint presentation on a topic of their interest, which included supernovae, general optics, black holes, and falling objects. Furthermore, they underwent a training session to learn how to operate and adjust a 30” Newtonian telescope dubbed the “Challenger”, as well as a 16” Dobsonian telescope, and others ranging in size from 6”-10” . A multitude of objects is viewable in the summer night sky, and some of the objects shown were the ever-popular Saturn and its rings and moons, Venus, summer constellations like Scorpio, Lyra, Sagittarius, numerous galaxies, a supernova remnant in the Black Eye galaxy, as well as numerous Messier Objects (objects prefaced by M). Materials and methods (cont'd) • Astronomical Imagery CCD imaging software was used to image the Swan Nebula M17 and a globular cluster M22. The first steps were to attach the CCD to the telescope and set up the program via a laptop. The desired objects to image were determined, and the telescope was moved to each object. After this, a remote control was used to fine-tune the field of view until the desired object was centered. Next, the binning, or resolution, was adjusted as well as the exposure time for each image using the software. Dark frames were taken for each object frame, which are used to subtract out noise from their corresponding images, and it was important that the exposure time and binning for each dark frame matched that of its object frame.Also, due to the distance to the objects, the resolution detail, and the wind, it was necessary to keep the exposure time short so as to prevent blurring. Three images of M22 and two images of M17 were taken, with respective amounts of dark frames. We used a software package called Mira to process the images taken with the Challenger telescope. First, the images were opened using the software. Next, the dark frames were subtracted from the object frames to get rid of noise and extraneous light. Once the dark frames were removed from each image, the CCD Procedure called 'Registering' was used to align the images. Once they were aligned, the images were combined using the 'Combine' procedure. The next steps involved cleaning up the images, such as increasing the sharpening of the combined images, as well as adjusting their brightness and contrast. The end results are shown below. Results • Eight events were held between May and August of 2012, with an average attendance of 40 people. Patrons were given presentations on the following topics: supernovae: different types, why they're important, and how they happen; basic optics: how telescopes work, and basic telescope anatomy; black holes: different types, observational methods, anatomy, formation, location, possible theories, and their “deaths”; falling objects: meteors, asteroids, etc. The images in Figures 1 and 2 were taken using the 30” Challenger telescope and SBIG ST-10 3 CCD Camera. Backyard Astronomy For those interested in doing backyard astronomy, there are a few easy things you can do. Through the use of a computer with internet access, you can download star charts from websites like http://www.skymaps.com/ to assist you in your viewing. There is also a multitude of resources, including Google Sky Maps and/or Star Walk, that will help you locate objects in the night sky. There are schedules for planetary viewings, meteor showers, and solar/lunar eclipses at www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-current.html. For family viewing it is always helpful to have a laser pointer so you can help others see what you see. With all of this in hand, the easiest thing to do is to take a blanket and a pair of binoculars (or a telescope if you own one) and go outside to a dark location and spend some time looking at the stars. Figure 1: M17, the Swan Nebula. This is a composite of two object frames. Each frame was a 1 second exposure. Reflections During our time at the observatory we have learned how to properly operate various types of telescopes, while also learning how to navigate the myriad wonders of the summer night sky. This program has proved to be very enlightening – it has given us the ability to easily go out and look at the night sky with confidence and be able to identify various celestial bodies and constellations. The program has also allowed us to provide visitors to the public programs with enriching astronomical knowledge on topics ranging from planets within our solar system to black holes and supernovae. Materials and methods Instruments • The following is a list of some of the equipment we used: • Telescopes • Challenger: • 16” Dobsonian • 10” Black Dobsonian • Solar telescopes • Binoculars • SBIG ST-10 3 CCD Camera • Software to control the Challenger: The Sky • Mira Version 7 image processing software • Star Charts There are two main types of telescopes: refracting telescopes and reflecting telescopes, both of which are featured at Fremont Peak. The 30” Challenger telescope (pictured), which is the main feature of the Observatory, is a reflecting telescope. It uses a 30” concave mirror at the base end of it, opposite of the aperture, where light enters the telescope. The telescopes used were reflecting telescopes, including a 16” orange Dobsonian telescope (that was compatible with the Challenger’s eyepieces) and a 10” black Dobsonian (used to look at brighter, closer objects). A refracting telescope uses a lens at the aperture, with another lens at the opposite end, where the astronomer looks through the telescope. There are a few refracting telescopes at Fremont Peak, which were used sparingly on nights with heavy traffic. Figure 2: M22, a globular cluster. This is a composite image of three different images, corresponding to three dark frames. Two of them were taken with 1 second exposures, while the third was a 5 second exposure. Acknowledgments • Director of Instruments Ron Dammann, Rob Hawley, Andy Newton, Andy Kreyche, Pat McNeil, Rick Morales, Pimol Moth, and Phillip Deutschle. • This internship was funded by a Title V College to University Success Program Grant. Hello, my name is Tyler Hooks. I'm going to be a freshman at Hartnell in the fall of 2012. I presented on basic optics and supernovae. My favorite experience was when I was using the Challenger telescope. This internship has helped me with my public speaking by giving me the experience of giving a presentation to the public. My name is Jose Lopez, and I will be transferring from Hartnell to UCSC to study astrophysics this Fall. I presented on black holes. I have learned from my time at Fremont Peak how to navigate the night sky, how to properly use telescopes, and how to identify constellations by using neighboring bright stars/objects. This internship has taught me how to be a better public speaker. Having a greater knowledge of the night sky will help me when I do more observational astronomy in my future studies. Hi, my name is Ricky Maciel. I am entering the University of Arizona this fall as a freshman. I presented on black holes. Throughout the course of the internship I have learned the locations of many interesting objects in the night sky. An experience that has proved meaningful for me was helping out with CCD imaging of M22. This internship has helped me improve my ability to communicate and share knowledge. For further information Be sure to check out www.fpoa.net for more information on the schedule of public events, the weather and sky conditions at the observatory and more. To verify that there is an event, you can check the website or call (831) 623-4255 or email email@example.com with questions. The interns are available at their email addresses: Lukas (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ricky (email@example.com), Tyler (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jared (email@example.com), and Cameron (firstname.lastname@example.org). Hello, my name is Jared Wolfe. I am an incoming freshman at Hartnell. I presented on supernovae. My favorite experience was standing outside the observatory with Ron Damman and having him point out the many summer constellations. My time here at FPOA has helped me greatly improve my knowledge of the night sky. Hello, my name is Cameron Schaefer, and this is my third summer working with the Fremont Peak Observatory Association. There's nothing like hearing people's reactions at seeing celestial bodies through telescopes for the first time. It's nice when people appreciate it. Overall, I feel that each time I look at the sky, I become a little more familiar with it. You start to see things and recognize patterns never noticed before. It's a gratifying experience. Hello, my name is Lukas Bonick. I graduated from UC Berkeley in May 2012 with a dual degree in Astrophysics and Japanese. I am the mentor to the interns, and it has been great fun working with them all summer long. They cooperated effectively and gave insightful presentations to the public on topics of their choice. It has truly been a great learning experience, as I have learned much more about where objects are located in the night sky, something my studies in college did not afford.