Friday, May 28, 2010

The Big Gun

Every once in a while I get to "play" with a telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Typically this happens when something is wrong with one of my charges or there is maintenance to be performed on the beast. Now - this isn't your daddy's typical backyard telescope. I spend most of my time in my "day job" around telescopes that are housed in buildings many times the size of my house and worth more than a thousand times my annual salary. These "Big Guns" of astronomy are used by professional astronomers from around the world to explore the vast depths of the Universe. For me - they are just really, really, really long focal lenght telephoto lenses.

Last night I had to do some software work on the 2.3 meter Bok Telescope atop Kitt Peak here in Arizona. When the work was done I took the opportunity to put my puny little Canon 5D on the back of this monster and do some cursory astrophotography. The planet Saturn, The Ring Nebula, and the center of the the Whirlpool galaxy were a few of my test subjects. The moon was full (and the sky was bright - blocking the faint light of some of the more interesting features and more difficult subjects). The seeing was not great either - but I managed to collect a few fuzzy photons as seen below.

The telescope farm atop Kitt Peak.

The Bok 2.3 Meter Telescope.


The Ring Nebula.

The Whirlpool Galaxy.