GMO Does NEAF

GMO Director Terry Hancock recently returned from his cross-country drive and annual visit to New York for NEAIC (North Eastern Imaging Conference), which was held at the Crowne Plaza in Suffern, NY on April 19th and 20th. NEIAC is a conference full of world class astrophotographers giving talks on different topics concerning astrophotography. Following the NEIAC conference Terry all attended the larger and more commercially diverse "NEAF" conference(North Eastern Astronomy Forum). This is the world's largest astronomy and space expo and it was held at the Rockland Community College on April 21st and 22nd. In the past Terry had driven from Michigan, which is less than half the distance (Grand Junction to New York is 2050 miles). Under normal circumstances he would have flown, but had a lot of material and equipment to set up at the booth for NEAF. All went well and Terry arrived on Wednesday afternoon.

As an official beta tester for QHY, and with Grand Mesa Observatory being an official testing station, Terry was invited by QHYCCD and Astrofactors (one of the US Dealer for QHYCCD) to assist for the first two days at NEAIC to answer technical questions regarding QHYCCD products. During that time Terry met and talked with many fellow astro-imagers from both the US and overseas, as well as a large number of QHYCCD users. This part of the trip also allowed Terry some first hand views of many new and exciting QHY products being release in 2018,  including the especially-impressive QHY4040 scientific Monochrome CMOS camera.

Grand Mesa Observatory was truly on display for the first time here at NEAF, and to make a big first impression Terry brought a large full-color banner to advertise our services. In honor of the convention it was also on that Saturday when the equipment subscriptions were formally launched on the GMO website! There was a lot of interest in the subscription services, as well in regards to actual telescope hosting for private parties. It was an extremely busy couple of days with about a hundred GMO flyers were handed out, but Terry always looks forward to meeting astro-imaging friends from around the globe so the hustle and bustle were well worth it. There were a lot of questions concerning exactly how our subscription works and thanks to GMO's Assistant Director Isaac Garfinkle, we now have a comprehensive description on our “Equipment Rental Rates” page (which can be found here https://grandmesaobservatory.com/subscription-rentals/)

On the way back to Colorado Terry stopped to see long time friend and Imager Cliff Spohn to pick up his TAK E-180 which will be used at Grand Mesa Observatory in conjunction with his own TAK E-180 as a dual rig. We will use a QHY11M for Luminance and Narrow Band and on the other TAK E-180 we will use either a QHY367C or QHY128C to capture One Shot Color images. If all goes well this tandem setup will be added to our subscriptions.  

 

Highlights of the trip back East included the following:      

  • QHYCCD representative Kayla Bi is looking at the possibility of having Terry do a talk in China
  • We are looking at doing a GMO live presentation via Skype/Teamviewer for GMO to students in China
  • SkyWatcher Telescopes will be sending a 10” GOTO Dob Scope for Public Outreach use by GMO
  • Bruce Morrell from Astrofactors donated to GMO a QHY Mini guidescope and a new All Sky camera housing and fish eye lens to use with a QHY5 camera
  • Longtime friend and retired imager Andy D’Arienzo who lives on Long Island visited the booth and helped for a few hours. He donated 2 boxes of telescope and imaging accessories (dovetails, adapters and eyepieces) 
 

First Annual Western Slope Girls in STEM Conference

On Saturday, April 14, West Middle School in Grand Junction held their first annual Girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) conference. The purpose of the program was to inspire young women to consider pursuing STEM careers and to allow them to interact with women STEM professionals. Student participants attended a series of 3 workshops. The teams of girls were then asked to solve specific problems by developing solutions and prototypes using a STEM approach. At the end of the day, the teams of girls presented ("pitched") their projects to a panel of judges that consisted of professional women from various STEM fields.

Thanks to her accomplished career that began as a chemist, GMO Outreach volunteer Nancy McGuire participated as one of the judges! Additionally, as a way to drum up excitement about STEM and about the observatory two of GMO Director Terry Hancock's astrophotos, which were taken at Grand Mesa Observatory, were donated to the event and given away as door prizes. Heidi Ragsdale (STEM Educator, MESA Program Coordinator, and passionate advocated for astronomy on the Western Slope) first removed the prints from their gift bags to show them to the audience and to impress upon everyone that these images were taken locally... And impress they did!

Grand Mesa Observatory is proud to have supported this wonderful event and hopes to be back for year 2!

IMG_0907.JPG
  Heidi Ragsdale, STEM Educator and MESA Program Coordinator, addresses the student participants.   

Heidi Ragsdale, STEM Educator and MESA Program Coordinator, addresses the student participants.
 

Great School Experience

On April 11, Grand Mesa Observatory founder and President of the Board John Mansur had the opportunity to talk about astronomy and the observatory to a group of 25 young men, ages from 13-17 at a school in Melbourne, Florida for at risk youth.  Most of what these young people knew about astronomy is what can be found in science fiction movies and what their teacher had been telling them in the days prior to the session.  Also remember, in that part of Florida, the Space Coast – Cape Canaveral area – the air is so humid that the seeing conditions are very poor.  Combine that problem with the light pollution, and the only stars visible there are the primary bright stars.  In fact, in nearly 30 years of star watching there, John himself has seen the Milky Way only one time and then it was very faint.  As a result, the young men really had no concept of what is out there.

John gave a Power Point presentation entitled “Our Home The Milky Way and Beyond” that GMO volunteer Nancy McGuire had prepared, with just a few modifications.  It was primarily aimed to give a good overview of astronomy, including what different kinds of astronomers there are, what do they do, and what tools they use to study the universe.  It was designed to really spark an interest in astronomy and it was very successful in doing that.  The young men had many questions and showed much interest – as did the supervisory staff that sat in on the presentation.  John stated: “They were very impressed and amazed at the number of stars, galaxies, and other wonders there are in our heavens.  But then so am I.”

They loved the images of nebulae and galaxies. They were fascinated by the video that GMO Assistant Director Isaac Garfinkle had put together showing the roof opening at the observatory in Colorado and then the scopes doing a ballet set to classical music as they un-parked, pointed, then parked again and then the roof closing.

John encouraged the young people to strive for an education, so they could really participate in the field of astronomy or other sciences.  He sensed that most of them had never considered such a possibility before.

John commented; “All in all, it was a wonderful experience for me, and I think also for them.  Nancy, thanks for your help!”

Galactic Maelstrom M81

M81-GMO-System2-4hr10min-FINAL.jpg

Messier 81 (M81), or as it is also called, Bode's Galaxy, is a bright, swirling spiral galaxy located in the constellation Ursa Major just up and to the right of the top of the Big Dipper asterism. This image was captured at Grand Mesa Observatory by Tom Masterson and Terry Hancock, and it beautifully highlights the interesting and delicate structures of the spiral arms.

First discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1774, M81's relative brightness (apparent magnitude 6.94) and closeness (11.8 million light-years distant) makes it one of the most studied and photographed galaxies in the night sky. It contains an active galactic nucleus powered by a supermassive black hole at its center and was host to one of the brightest supernovae of the 20th century, SN 1993J. Also in this image, the blue blob above M81 is a satellite galaxy gravitationally locked to M81 called Holmberg IX, which is thought to have formed within the last 200 million years, making it the youngest nearby galaxy.

M81 wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messier_81

M81 in 60 seconds from NASA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39Sw0axqIBM

Holmberg IX: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holmberg_IX#cite_note-sabbi-2

 


Technical Info:

Grand Mesa Observatory System #2 https://grandmesaobservatory.com/equipment/

Telescope: AGO 12.5” Astrograph/Newtonian
Camera: QHY163M Monocrome CMOS
Guiding: OAG
Mount: Paramount ME

LUM 25x 300sec 1x
RGB 25x 300sec 1x1 (4h10min total)

Processing/Stacking: PixInsight, PhotoshopCC, Registar, Straton

Location: Grand Mesa Observatory, Purdy Mesa, CO

GMO Goes to the Delta Career Fair

With the help of local volunteers JD, Peyton, and Beckie, the Grand Mesa Observatory and the Western Colorado Astronomy Club were very well represented at the 2018 Delta Career Fair. This event was held at the Paonia Energy Building in Paonia, CO and there were approximately 250 children visiting from the Cedaredge Middle School. Thanks to the great work of our outreach director Nancy McGuire, the astronomy display was the most eye-catching booth in the room and we had a lot of interest from students wanting to know about careers in astronomy and asking lots of great questions. Peyton, who is 10 years old and himself an aspiring astronomer, is the youngest member of WCAC and was instrumental in rousing interest among his peers at the event. He was very actively engaging other students and inspiring them about being astronomers, and as a result many of the students now want to visit the observatory and attend the public viewing nights we have scheduled.

In addition to the student body there was a lot of interest from community leaders and career professionals who were present. One such encounter was with a man by the name of Art Trevena, who had his own geology display and who is also the vice president of Black Canyon Astronomy Club. After extensive mingling GMO Director Terry Hancock was even invited to do a talk at one of their club's meetings! This was another very successful event that helped put us in touch with the larger astronomy community in this part of the state. Much of the success was due to the impeccable planning of GMO staff, but without the help of our community volunteers its hard to imagine events like these being possible.

Thank you to all who came out!

Delta Career Fair.jpg

Science Alliance Helps Bring Astronomy To The Western Slope

While the former John McConnell Math and Science Center was busy planning a move to its new facility in the brand new CMU engineering building, the Grand Mesa Observatory and the Western Colorado Astronomy Club were collaborating to provide a brand new astronomy exhibit to go with it!

Eureka! McConnell Science Center had its grand opening on March 10th., 2018 and the new astronomy exhibit takes advantage of the soaring ceiling at the new location with a hanging, rotating, three sided, LED backlit set of astrophotos. All three images were taken right here at the Grand Mesa, with a selection of objects that includes the Andromeda Galaxy, the Pleiades star cluster, and the Horsehead Nebula region of the Orion Nebula. The panels are visually very stunning and as a result they draw attention to the display table below where virtual reality headsets wait to take visitors on a journey to space. In this age of unprecedented astronomical discoveries and wonders, the exhibit will be a living one with updates on new discoveries in the universe and space exploration, to be shared with the community.

Celestial Drama in NGC 2170

As the first official beta tester, it has been an honor working with Tom Masterson to help get our equipment ready for the general public. This image of NGC 2170 was the first data set Tom processed from the Grand Mesa Observatory, and hopefully it will be the first of many such amazing image to come out of this phenomenal facility.

This type of data sharing is how we've envisioned one of our many subscription option will play out, in addition to the more standard fare of private scope rentals and dedicated pier hosting. This subscription option will eventually feature an object selection survey to give our subscribers more control over what targets are captured, but for now we left the choice in Tom's very capable hands. Once we begin publicly offering the data it will be available through the website, so make sure to keep checking back!

Celestial Drama in NGC 2170

Image Featured in Sky & Telescope (April, 2018)

"BEAUTY NEAR THE BELT" - Sky & Telescope (April, 2018)

At the request of Sky & Telescope Terry reprocessed his earlier color image as a monotone image. This new rendition combines color data (converted to Grayscale) with H-Alpha data to produce a very dramatic effect. Alnitak (below center), the easternmost star in Orion’s Belt, anchors a rich region of nebulosity that features the broad glow of IC 434, with the Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) silhouetted against it, and the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) at bottom center. North is toward left.

Sky and Telescope (April 2018) - Horsehead.jpg

Image can be found in Sky and Telescope April 2018 pages 72 and 73. 
Terry Hancock & Walter Holloway
DETAILS: Takahashi FSQ-130ED astrograph and QHY367C
CCD camera with hydrogen-alpha and LRGB fi lters (rendered
in monochrome). Total exposure: 6.9 hours.

High Resolution: https://www.flickr.com/…/terryha…/39644782845/in/dateposted/

Image Details
Terry Hancock downunderobservatory.com
Location: GrandMesaObservatory.com PurdyMesa, Colorado
Date: 13th, 14th October 2017
RGB 43 x 4 min,
H Alpha 5nm 24 x 10 min
Camera: QHY367C
Gain 2850, Offset 76 with Dark Frames no Flat.
Optics: The Walter Holloway Takahashi FSQ 130 APO Refractor @ F5
Filters by Chroma
EQ Mount: Paramount ME
Image Acquisition software Maxim DL5
Registered, Calibrated and Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
Post Processed with Pixinsight and Photoshop CS6

Another Featured Image for Valentine's Day

One of the latest images of The Heart Nebula captured at GMO was just featured in the European Blog "Universe Of Magic" as a commemoration of Valentines Day!

Terry Hancock was quoted as saying "It is a real honor to be featured on Universe Of Magic which features work by some of the world's finest astrophotographers. This selection in particular has a real significance to me for 5 years ago on Valentine's Day one of my Heart Nebula images was chosen for my first NASA APOD!" (That APOD can be seen here: https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130304.html)

Juan Carlos of Universe Of Magic also allowed Terry to write a dedication to his fiance, Nancy McGuire, and included that in the official Universe of Magic post (which can be seen here: https://universomagicojuanca.blogspot.com)

El corazón de Terry Hancock.JPG