District 51 STEM Students Join GMO Founders for a Night at The Observatory

On the evening of Saturday, September 29th. a group of students from District 51's West Middle School finally got their chance to visit Grand Mesa Observatory. They unfortunately got "clouded out" for their planned Spring visit. But this time around it was a big success! The students got a tour of the observatory complex given by Assistant Director Isaac. They stopped outside the Falcon telescope dome and learned about the worldwide project, followed up with a visit inside the Research Dome where remote astronomical research is poised to commence, then proceeded to the main observatory. There, Director Terry demonstrated the astrophotography work that is being done and answered questions from the group. The students and teachers proceeded down to the observing pad where astronomers from the Western Colorado Astronomy Club eagerly shared their knowledge of the night sky and views through the telescopes.

A major bonus for the evening was that John and Vicki Mansur, the founders of Grand Mesa Observatory, were visiting from Florida. They got to interact with the students and teachers and see the realization of their dream and legacy firsthand. The students followed by by sending an awesome, handmade thank you sheet. 

Galactic Neighbor M33: The Triangulum Galaxy

This is the latest data that has been captured and processed at the Grand Mesa Observatory in Western Colorado. This data came from System #2 here at GMO, the centerpiece of which is a Sky-Watcher Esprit 150mm ED F7.0 Triplet APO Refractor that Sky-Watcher USA have sent to us for testing. Observatory director Terry Hancock acquired the data in Color using LRGB Filters as well as with an H-Alpha filter which was added to the red channel. This system employs a prototype QHY168 Monochrome CMOS camera with an APS-C format sensor, which is another item sent to GMO for testing as part of official partnership with QHY as beta testers. All of this sits atop a Paramount ME, and for anyone interested in acquiring some data from this system please check out our subscription and custom data set options!

 

Image capture details:

Operator: Terry Hancock (www.downunderobservatory.com)

Location: Grand Mesa Observatory, Purdy Mesa, Colorado

Dates: September 9-10, 2018

Optics: Sky-Watcher Esprit 150mm ED Triplet APO Refractor

Camera: QHY168M Monochrome CMOS APS-C Beta
LRGB, 500 min, 25 x 300 sec each, bin 1x1
H-Alpha 200 min, 20 x 600 sec, bin 1x1
Gain 10, Offset 30, Calibrated with Flat, Dark & Bias
Total Integration time: HaLRGB 11.6 hours

Image Acquisition software Maxim DL5

Pre Processed in Pixinsight

Post Processed in Photoshop

 

“The Triangulum Galaxy is the third largest galaxy within the Local group, behind Andromeda and our own Milky Way.  Found in its namesake constellation of Triangulum, this galaxy bears the distinction of the most distant object which can be seen with the naked eye and is a wonderful example of a classic spiral galaxy.  It has enjoyed a rather quiescent life, having evolved without any major tidal interactions with other galaxies and its structure is very uniform as a result.

In 2007 astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory, in orbit around Earth, detected the largest stellar-mass black hole ever found within M33.  The 16 solar-mass black hole has an obital stellar companion, and from our vantage point, the black hole eclipses its binary companion, blocking its view, every 3.5 days.

M33 is also an important object to astronomers because it is the ultimate gauge for the darkness of a location.  It takes just a tiny bit of light pollution to eliminate this object from view.”

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R-5 Views the P-4 (FOUR PLANETS!)

At the invitation from the Western Colorado Astronomy Club, a group of about 30 students and several teachers from R-5 High School visited Grand Mesa Observatory. As one of the teachers noted "it's got to be something really special for high school students to give up a Friday night! And special it was. The buses arrived just before twilight so the group could have a tour of the various observatories. Then they gathered in the roll off roof observatory where Director Terry Hancock, assisted by volunteer Don Stadelman gave them a demonstration on astrophotography. Once all questions were answered, the group headed down to the observing pad where the volunteer astronomers from the club were waiting to show them some night sky wonders. A string of planets stretching across the sky was an attention-getter! 

It was a great experience for both the students as well as the volunteers, a number of whom said it was gratifying to talk to the students about their future dreams and aspirations.
According to their teacher, the students are still talking about their astronomy experience!

The Falcon Telescope Network Lands at GMO

On Tuesday August 28th, 2018, the Grand Mesa Observatory received its final components for the Air Force Academy's Falcon Telescope network. This telescope, its instrumentation, and its encompassing dome will be fully owned and operated by the Air Force Academy. This also meant that their personnel were on hand to handle installation and the initial calibration routines, with Mr. Francis Chun taking the lead on this particular project. He can be seen in a number of the photos/videos manning the arrival (by crane) of the monster 20" scope, as well as on the front page of this past Wendesday's local paper!. The scope itself was made by an Italian company called Officina Stellare, and it's an f/8 Ritchey-Chrétien design which is perched atop a Software Bisque Paramount ME2. This project has been many months in the making, but we are both honored and thrilled to be hosting the Falcon Telescope Network here at Grand Mesa Observatory

Due to the sheer size of the telescope it required a crane to lift in to place, and considering how rare of a site this is we had not one but TWO local TV stations on-hand to document the event, as well as a return by our esteemed local newspaper, The Daily Sentinel. You can check out some of the footage and videos below, as well as our second front-page appearance in the last 2 months!

 

The Daily Sentinel cover story:
https://www.gjsentinel.com/news/western_colorado/purdy-mesa-telescope-joins-elite-air-force-falcon-network/article_c8e58c20-ab50-11e8-8998-10604b9f7e7c.html

Terry Hancock's video of the lifting of the Falcon Telescope:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/ras0autjxej07vy/20180828_073354.mp4?dl=0

Channel 5 TV Station interview on the Falcon Telescope:
https://www.westernslopenow.com/news/local-news/project-falcon-telescope-nests-in-whitewater-observatory/1402719908

Channel 11 TV Station interview on the Falcon Telescope:
http://www.nbc11news.com/content/news/Eye-to-the-sky-Local-observatory-installs-Project-Falcon-Telescope-491938251.html

 

GMO Hosted Its Second Big PUBLIC NIGHT SKY VIEWING EVENT

Partnering once again, Grand Mesa Observatory was the host site for the Western Colorado Astronomy Club's monthly public night sky viewing event which was held on August 10th, 2018.

Another large crowd flocked up to the Mesa in order to get a tour of the observatory complex, as well as to enjoy a night under the stars with the astronomy club members and their wide variety of telescopes. Director Terry Hancock reported on the event; "I want to thank our GMO volunteers and the members of the astronomy club personally for bringing equipment, showing the night sky to our visitors, and for making this a fun night to remember. Without you there wouldn't be an event. We at GMO are very fortunate to have you as volunteers, and this great alliance with the WCAC who have so many talented people helping to further the interest of astronomy in our region".

A friend of Terry's who was visiting from San Francisco assisted him with the observatory tours by manning the computers in the warm room, slewing the scopes, and capturing the M101 galaxy so folks could see a galaxy on the PC monitor. We counted at least 165 people through the door at jsut the observatory itself, and people were still coming in at 11:15 PM. Having an assistant for the observatory tours worked very well and Terry hopes to have a volunteer assistant to man the scopes for the next event in November.

GMO also tried to work out the bugs on a new addition to public events hosted there - a projector and screen that will be showing science short films and other items of interest during public viewing events. One of GMO's new volunteers (Don) is heading up that project, and with a little more work the new projector screen we installed last month should become a great asset for future events. Laser guided sky tours were also given during the course of the evening, and the planets ended up being the stars of the show as they shone brightly through both smoke and wind. It was another great event, and we look forward to seeing everyone for our third-and-final public viewing event in November!

Photography Meets Astrophotography

 On July 24th. GMO Director Terry Hancock gave a presentation entitled "Grand Mesa Observatory: The Education, The Science, and Astrophotography" to the Thunder Mountain Camera Club. In addition to the fascinating slides and video, Terry also brought along a few cameras that are used in the observatory so the club members could get an up close look at some of GMO's technology. There were questions afterwards, and the camera club members were invited for a visit to the observatory to see the real deal!

Colorado Public Radio Segment on GMO to Air on Tuesday August 28th

GMO Director Terry Hancock was interviewed by Colorado Public Radio's Ryan Warner for a segment on "Colorado Matters". The 10 minute segment will air twice on Tuesday August 28th, during a time slot between 10-11 AM, and again during a time slot between 7-8 PM. Tune in to hear Ryan Warner interview Terry about GMO, it's facilities, it's mission, it's science, and some taped comments from Founder John Mansur! 

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First Light: Sky-Watcher Esprit 150mm

The following are accounts of Grand Mesa Observatory's first light imaging run using the Sky-Watcher Esprit 150mm ED F7.0 Triplet APO Refractor. This is the latest project of observatory director Terry Hancock, and all images were captured from the Grand Mesa Observatory in Western Colorado. The target chosen for first light was NGC 7635, which was chosen for its spectacular detail in both narrowband and broadband spectra. The telescope itself was sent to us by Sky-Watcher USA for testing, so hopefully these accounts will help answer any lingering questions some of you may have.

Thoughts from the Director:
"I acquired the data in Color using LRGB Filters and I added H-Alpha to the red channel and as a luminance layer. For the Hubble Palette image these were captured using Chroma 5nm filters, Ha was binned 1x1, OIII and SII binned 2x2. I’m very impressed with the Sky-Watcher 150 Esprit, using the big chip QHY16200A CCD Monochome camera with an OAG the Esprit 150 gives a very sharp image and a nice flat field, (Sky-Watcher quote a 43mm image circle), although a little slower than the TAK130, image quality is superb and unlike many APO refractors I have owned or tested the Esprit has a dedicated Field Flattener/corrector. For Autofocusing we purchased the Starizona Micro-Touch stepper motor which slips onto the dual speed side of the focuser, I’m using TheSkyX @ focus 3 for autofocus and it works great."

Total Integration time for HaLRGB = 8.25 hours
Total Integration time for Hubble Palette = 9.25 hours

Higher resolution images:
HST https://www.flickr.com/…/terryha…/44028733691/in/dateposted/
HaLRGB https://www.flickr.com/…/terryha…/43980066972/in/dateposted/

Image capture details:
Terry Hancock downunderobservatory.com
Location: GrandMesaObservatory.com Purdy Mesa, Colorado

LRGB Image:
Dates: August 3rd 2018
LRGB, 240 min, 6 x 600 sec each, bin 1x1
H-Alpha 255 min, 17 x 900 sec, bin 1x1
Camera: QHY16200A
Gain 0, Offset 130, Calibrated with flat, Dark & Bias
Optics: Sky-Watcher Esprit 150mm ED Triplet APO Refractor
Filters by Chroma (Narrowband are 5nm)
Image Acquisition software Maxim DL5
Pre Processed in Pixinsight
Post Processed in Photoshop

Hubble Palette Image:
Dates: July 7, 24, 26, 2018
H-Alpha 255 min, 17 x 900 sec, bin 1x1
OIII 150 min, 15 x 600 sec, bin 2x2
SII 150 min, 15 x 600 sec, bin 2x2
Camera: QHY16200A
Gain 0, Offset 130, Calibrated with flat, Dark & Bias
Optics: Sky-Watcher Esprit 150mm ED Triplet APO Refractor
Filters by Chroma (Narrowband are 5nm) 
Image Acquisition software Maxim DL5
Pre Processed in Pixinsight
Post Processed in Photoshop

The Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635):
NGC 7635, also called the Bubble Nebula, Sharpless 162, or Caldwell 11, is a H II region emission nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia. It lies close to the direction of the open cluster Messier 52 which can be seen in this image upper left. The "bubble" is created by the stellar wind from a massive hot, 8 magnitude young central star. The nebula is near a giant molecular cloud which contains the expansion of the bubble nebula while itself being excited by the hot central star, causing it to glow. It was discovered in 1787 by William Herschel

A Second Dome for the Grand Mesa Observatory!

After months of on-site preparation and weeks of transportation coordination, the Grand Mesa Observatory has finally taken delivery of our brand new SkyShed PodMax observatory dome! This behemoth came all the way down from Canada, and after being unloaded from the freight truck (where it was packed in with a lifetime supply of peanut butter) the 12.5ft-wide dome found its final resting location on GMO’s most-recently-poured concrete pad. We are still piecing together all of the gear the will be housed inside the dome, but GMO will be working with a coalition of scientists from universities all around the country to prepare the instrumentation package for proper academic use. At the moment this system will likely be centered around a 16" Ritchey-Chretien optical tube which will be loaded on a Paramount ME, and the imaging package will be built around one of the brand new FLI4040 cameras. As we continue to grow it is likely that the setup will too, but luckily there is plenty of headroom with the SkyShed Pod as the dome itself has a 44" slot that opens 22" past zenith to allow for a scope up to 32" in diameter! 

The goal of this facility will differ from that of our main astroimaging facility, with the primary aim here being to provide an easily-accessible, research-grade system to various educational institutions and organizations free of charge. The dome will work on an appointment-based system that will ultimately grow in to a proposal based application as the dome's user-base increases. This system will be capable of conducting a wide array of tasks from photometry to spectroscopy to classical astrophotography, but other applications would not be unwelcome if you know of a team with more specific needs. By providing such powerful tools to our team members it is the hope of GMO that these scientists will be able to conduct better research, in less time, and with less red tape than would be found with typical University-grade setups. In many cases we will also just be providing the simple asset of darker skies than anything found near most schools, but whatever the need Grand Mesa Observatory would like to work with as many teams as we can reasonably accommodate! If you or someone you know works for an academic institution and thinks they could benefit from our services, please contact us using the form (found HERE).

GMO would like to thank all of the team members and volunteers who have been helping coordinate the delivery and get everything assembled. In particular, a special tip of the hat is owed to Chuck Burch who has been leading the assembly team for the dome itself, as well as leading our efforts to prepare the eventual scientific instrumentation packages. The dome is a multi-day setup procedure with a fully functioning crew, and without the help of folks like Chuck and his team it would probably have been a multi-week procedure. We will continue to update you on the progress of this facility, and we invite you to contact us with any further inquires you may have.

Its a big universe but a small world

Volunteer Nancy gave the presentation "Our Home the Milky Way and Beyond" as part of the Clifton Library's Educational Series. The library has a small presentation room, but it was a full house. The participants had fun answering the quiz questions and marveling about the universe. The audience included several young people, one of whom commented that he could not wait to see the future and all of the discoveries that would be coming. 

It turns out that another audience member is actually a neighbor from Lands End Road! He met with Nancy after the presentation about wanting to volunteer at the observatory. All community members attending the presentation were encouraged to attend public sky viewing events and to tour the observatory.

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