Monday, November 7, 2011

The WIYN 0.9m Observatory @ Kitt Peak

Kitt Peak National Observatory

Today there are no pretty pictures of the wonders of the Universe from the VAO observatory in Webster, NY. Instead, I bring you images of where I will be for the next week,  Kitt Peak National Observatory.  Located 56 miles from Tucson, Arizona at an elevation of 6,875 feet above sea level.   KPNO has the largest collection of telescopes in the world. 24 optical telescopes and 2 radio observatories.  

So why KPNO?

On the left, the WIYN 0.9 m Observatory

KPNO houses the WIYN consortium 0.9 meter telescope of which Rochester Institute of Technology is a partner among other educational institutions.   As part of the partnership, faculty and students of RIT  have the opportunity to conduct research and educational projects.   

Why is this important to me, you say? Well to begin, the night sky at KPNO is one of the best in the nation and the opportunity to image with a telescope that is 3 times the aperture size of the one I have is compelling.  Not to mention this will advance 2 of the projects I am currently working on.  The first project is on AGN (Active Galactic Nuclei), galaxies where their central super massive blackhole is accreating mass.  The second project is on the characterization of transiting exoplanets and their apsidal precession due to the effects predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity.

Stay tuned for the results of this trip!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

M78, McNeil's Nebula, v1647Ori what do these things have in common?

M78, McNeil's Nebula and v1647Ori
©Billy Vazquez, 2011 @ VAO Webster, NY
They are all part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex.  They are also part of these image taken from VAO a few nights ago.  M78 on the upper left corner of these image is an HII region and it the brightest and most prominent object of this field but regardless there are several other nebula like objects, for example McNeil's Nebula.   

McNeil's Nebula has a very interesting story behind it.   Discovered by McNeil in 2003 after having done an exhaustive search on this field at different epochs.  But was it really a new object in the sky?  Apparently as close to the mid 1960s and by no other than an amateur astronomer(Evered Kramer).  There is clear evidence that the nebula was visible then.   So how come it disappeared just to reappear again for McNeil to find?  This is still the topic of active research.   The prevalent explanation is that the young star v1647Ori has episodic outburst whose light reflects and scatters by the dust in McNeil's Nebula.

These outbursts from young stars and their associated nebulosity are coined Herbig-Haro objects and they are like I said still the subject of astronomical research, so that we can understand the physics that powers this phenomena.