Me with another famous guitarist and friend of the observatory Liona Boyd in the Control room of the Stocker Astroscience Center. Liona has recorded with Yo Yo Ma, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, and scores of others. She played us a song in my office and listened to two of my songs. I was honored to say the least. She originally started attending our star parties many years ago when she lived in Miami. Now she lies in West Palm Beach but made the trek down to see the observatory.
The Central Control Room - Where the Magic Happens (featuring Dr. James Webb)
Stocker Astroscience Center during the day
Our New Telescope
This is a portrait of BL Lacetae, the first true scientific image taken by the Stocker 24” telescope. The small object at the center of the image is BLLac, a compact Blazar. The light captured by the camera came from a relativistic jet in the core of a distant galaxy 0.9 giga-light years away from Earth. BLLac was first discovered in 1929 and originally thought to be a variable star within our galaxy by Cuno Hoffemeister. After continual observation by many researchers over decades, in 1972 a class of blazars was named after it, dubbed BL Lac Objects. BL Lacs tend to be very actively variable in the optical portion of the spectrum, and have weak or undetectable emission lines as compared to more luminous galactic cores called Quasars. BL Lacs also tend to be nearer to us than normal quasars, meaning the light we observe from them was produced later than that from more distant normal quasars. This source is thought to be powered by a supermassive (100 million Solar masses) rotating Black hole and the luminosity is about 100 times the luminosity of any normal star. The image was taken by James Webb and Mike Smith on December 10, 2014 and reduced and measured by Bobby Martinez and Jordan DeWitt in the Stocker Astroscience center control room.
Stocker Astroscience Center at night
Comet Lovejoy in Motion
Comet Lovejoy (C2/2014) is currently brightening our night skies. From a dark location, it can be seen with binoculars moving North west in front of the constellation Orion. The image above is a series of images taken with the Stocker 0.61-meter telescope over the period of approximately 1 hour and stacked on top of one another. The comet images are the fuzzy blobs near the center of the image, and each image shows the progress of the comet (direction of red line). Comets are large objects, composed of rock and ice that are on orbits that take them in toward the Sun. Comet lovejoy is approaching perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) this month. As the comet makes it way through the inner solar system the nucleus heats up, outgassing and forming what astronomers call a Coma. What you see in the image is the coma of Lovejoy. Normally you can see two tails, an ion tail and a dust tail. In our images, we were unable to see the tail since a combination of bright sky and hazy weather made the sky brighter than the tail itself, thus we are unable to image it. However, what we could see was the progress of the comet as it moved among the background stars from lower right to upper left. All of the other points of light are stars. Each image is a 30 second exposure taken about 10 minutes apart. You can see the progress of the comet as it moves through the Solar system. At perihelion, the comet is moving at its highest speed (~82,000 mph for Lovejoy!). In the next few weeks we will try and image the tail for you. These images were taken through RGBL filters on the 0.61 telescope at the Stocker Astroscience Center by Dr. James Webb and Dr.Jose Parra and reduced by Dr. Webb.
Comet Lovejoy in January
Comet Lovejoy (C2/2014) in color. Image made through RGB filters with the 0.61-meter telescope atop the Stocker Astroscience center. We took a number of exposures through R, G and B filters and selected the one with the best "Seeing" in each color. The images were bias, dark and flat corrected and then combined using the "RGB combine" function in MIRA image processing software. Notice the red, green and blue dots. These are actually star images and normally are aligned so the red, green and blue images coincide. However, since comet Lovejoy is moving very rapidly, we had to align the images with the comet, therefore mis-aligning the stars by a large amount. The direction the colored stars are oriented tells you which direction the comet is moving. (see previous SPOW). These images were reduced and color combined by Dr. Webb, Owen Lalababayev, and Bobby Martinez.