Outreach on the Opposite Side of the Mesa

On February 9th, 2019 the Grand Mesa Observatory was asked to present at the Collbran branch of the Mesa County Library system! The presenter for this event was GMO’s assistant director Isaac Garfinkle, and for this particular public outreach event the topic was our general-purpose introduction to astronomy titled “Our Home the Milky Way and Beyond”. In addition to a couple local residents we were fortunate enough to have the members of a small local astronomy club in attendance, the members of whom are currently participants at the nearby Civilian Conservation Corps just down the road from the library. Our hostess for the event was the branch director, Julie, and we could not have asked for anyone better! In addition to getting the incredible space set up for visitors she gave a great overview of the historical significance of the property which is located in a very old bank building. Isaac brought some prints to show what the observatory does, as well as some equipment to show what a typical imaging setup would look like.

This was a very fun event with great participation and a great location, so hopefully we can make it back up to Collbran soon!

Galaxies, Star Clusters and Nebulae Fill the Hall at Mesa County Main Branch Library!

The Grand Mesa Observatory is thrilled to have an exhibit of astrophotography prints lining the hallway of the main branch of the Mesa County Library. The Library and Grand Mesa Observatory are both dedicated to bringing astronomy to the people of Western Colorado.

All of the stunning photos of deep space objects were taken locally right here on the Western Slope (many at Grand Mesa Observatory). Four of GMO's staff (Terry Hancock, Isaac Garfinkle, John Mansur, and Tom Masterson), plus Western Colorado Astronomy club member Victor Barton's talents are showcased at the exhibit. The photos cover a diverse range of deep sky objects and are done in color, Hubble Palette, and black and white. Something for everyone! The exhibit opened on February 1st. and will run through March 14th.

Members of the community are encouraged to view the exhibit and are also invited to visit Grand Mesa Observatory for tours of the observatory and night sky viewing events. They are also invited to attend Western Colorado Astronomy Club meetings held at the library as well as special astronomy events to be held there. Information can be found at grandmesaobservatory.com and  wcacastronomy.org

GMO's Technology Shines at the Mesa County Tech Expo

On January 22, 2019, Grand Mesa Observatory set up a display table as part of the annual Tech Expo held at the main branch of the Mesa County Library. This was the second year that GMO was invited to participate in the event which features local technologies. As with the year before, GMO set up a table alongside the table of the Western Colorado Astronomy Club. A number of astrophotos taken at the observatory along with a rotating slide show about the observatory and the work that is done here were featured in the display. Many interested members of the public stopped by to chat with Terry, Isaac, Nancy and Don from GMO to learn about us. They were invited to attend planned public night sky viewing events. Some are interested in becoming volunteers or in learning astrophotography. But - all were impressed by the astronomy education that GMO provides to the people of the Western Slope and by the astonishing photos of space objects that are taken here. 

A Strong Start to 2019!

On January 15, 2019, Grand Mesa Observatory started the New Year off right with volunteer Nancy giving a presentation entitled "The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars" to a group of first graders at Glenwood Springs Elementary School. The enthusiastic group was excited to learn fun facts about our only moon, the sun that gives life to our planet, and the vast number of stars that populate the universe. A lot of photos in the presentation helped illustrate some of the science in a fun way! The students eagerly answered quiz questions. Teachers and students were encouraged to schedule a visit to Grand Mesa Observatory to see some celestial objects for themselves through our telescopes. 


Parachute First Graders Ace Astronomy Quiz Questions

Question: What has 90 heads and a million questions?

Answer: The first graders in Parachute! 

On November 28, 2018, GMO volunteer Nancy gave a presentation to the first graders at Grand Valley Center For Family Learning entitled "The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars". The enthusiastic group of young people had been studying this topic for a number of weeks. The school hallways were decorated with fun posters that the first graders had created in this theme. They got to test their recently acquired knowledge by answering some fun quiz questions during the presentation. It is very gratifying to see so many young people be so curious about outer space and to have so many fascinating questions about what goes on there. Both teachers and students are looking forward to a subsequent trip to Grand Mesa Observatory to check out the night skies through our telescopes!


Grand Mesa Observatory Astrophotos Earn 10 spots on Space.com's "100 Best Space Photos of 2018"

Each year the space themed website Space.com selects their choice for the top 100 astrophotos of the year. Grand Mesa Observatory was thrilled and honored that 10 of Space.com's "100 Best Space Photos of 2018" were taken right here in Western Colorado at the observatory!

Photos selected include:

  • The Triangulum Galaxy (M33)

  • The Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635)

  • The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules (M13)

  • The Constellation of Orion Mosaic

  • The Heart Nebula (IC1805-Melotte 15)

  • Bode's Galaxy (M81) and The Cigar Galaxy (M82)

  • Croissant in Cygnus; Sharpless 171 (SH2-171)

  • “A Rare Jewel (Hubble palette)

  • Horsehead and Flame Nebula

  • Lagoon Nebula (M8).


Finishing The 2018 Night Sky Viewing Season in Style!

The last public night sky viewing event of the Western Colorado Astronomy Club's 2018 season was hosted by Grand Mesa Observatory on November 9th. Despite the cold temperatures there was another relatively large crowd, with approximately 100-150 people showing up throughout the course of the night. In addition to the usual cast of scopes belonging to WCAC club members, a bonus treat was the attendance of a number of members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society (BCAS), who brought along their very-impressive array of telescopes that included a 20" reflector, 10” reflector, and an enormous pair of binoculars. The public was just as eager as the other astronomers to get a look through those monsters, but with so many scopes present there were barely any lines! The planets that had graced the summer sky had mostly disappeared over the Western horizon, but quite a few people got good looks at Saturn and Mars through the variety of telescopes and binoculars on hand. The crowd was also treated the myriad deep sky objects now visible in the Fall skies, with some highlights including the Pleiades Star Cluster and the Andromeda Galaxy. And as always, a number of groups toured the observatory complex throughout the night, with director Terry Hancock putting on another impressive display of technology.

The astronomy club and Grand Mesa Observatory are already looking ahead to planning the 2019 public events!

Astrophotography at the Art Center!

From October 31st. through November 14th., astrophotographs taken right here on the Western Slope were featured in an exhibit at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts. Four members of Grand Mesa Observatory, Terry Hancock, Isaac Garfinkle, John Mansur, and Tom Masterson,  joined fellow Western Colorado Astronomy Club member, Victor Barton, in showcasing their talents. The photos covered a diverse range of deep sky celestial objects and were done in color, black and white, and Hubble Palette. The artists donated to, and participated in a "First Friday" event sponsored by the Art Guild. Astronomy themed refreshments delighted the large crowd of art enthusiasts who attended. The artist astrophotographers who live locally were present to talk about the photos with visitors and answer questions. There was a great deal of fascination, pride and enthusiasm when people learned about Grand Mesa Observatory and the work and public outreach being done there. Many inquiries were also made about the astronomy club and it's mission to promote astronomy to the people of Western Colorado.

A smaller reception was held the following week for members of the club and the observatory staff along with GMO volunteers. 

The icing on the cake were "sold" tags on some of the prints. The Art Center advised that this was a first-of-its-kind show. It made quite an impression on visitors to the Center. 

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.”