Amateur astronomers, unite!

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Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby danprater » Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:39 pm

Hey guys, I have a gift idea that I can't do on my own.

I'm reaching out to any amateur astronomers out there to bring a telescope to the playa and show galaxy/star red-shift of the universe. You know, let them pick a star/galaxy/whatever, look through the lens, and see the red-shift in all directions for themselves. I think it'd be cool. Who can help with this? Anyone?

This idea came to me after watching that movie Mirror Mask, where the idea resonated with me that we are each the center of the universe, and all people (and things, by extension) are just characters in each of our stories. Like me, and this email, is just a message from something/someone/somewhere to you, the reader. I believe it's up to us to figure out what we can learn from the universe (often other people), and possibly what we can do with that for the benefit of other people (which is our gifts to others).

Anywho, that's one of my messages, among many, and I'm trying to think of ways to express these ideas, in various metaphorical forms, on the playa. This is one of them.

(I'm very interested in transformative gifts; if you like them too, read Lewis Hyde's book, The Gift. It's good. Larry Harvey often references it when talking about Burning Man.)

Hallelujah, people.
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby larsonfarmer » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:57 am

mirror mask

great movie!

everyone should watch it.
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby danprater » Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:11 pm

yeah i'm thinking of putting up a movie screen and playing the movie too. it's trippy. a couple years back i watched wizard of oz on burn night, and it was super funky. mirror mask might be even funkier. anyway, the character never really realizes that she (or he) is the focus of the story, which is what we, I think, are supposed to realize in watching the movie... and by extension, the center of the universe. And hence, the telescope.

So, anyone know anything about looking at red-shift?
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby theCryptofishist » Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:22 pm

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_shift#Observations_in_astronomy]I couldn't remember enough of my childhood astronomy to be certain that it was discernable at that level. After looking at (note, not reading, it made my brain fuzzy) the wiki article, I got the impression that it wasnt' really observable as such, more as a change in the spetrum of light put out by the star or galaxy in question. Some of which I remembered when I saw it again. I guess I wonder why you want to look at something that's sort of difficult to explain and see, when there is so much that's easy and amazing to see without having to get into something so technical. Planets if visible are wonderful, rings and satilites. Craters on the moon. Binary stars.
Just one opinion.[/url]
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby Ugly Dougly » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:13 pm

Bring your telescope and make it happen!
Please to visit PAGE TWO.
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby ygmir » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:34 pm

we'll all be looking for the 7 th planet.
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby 5280MeV » Wed Dec 21, 2011 8:19 pm

danprater wrote:So, anyone know anything about looking at red-shift?


Unfortunately, even with a very good telescope it is very hard to discern any color whatsoever in galaxies because the light from them is so dim. Looking at galaxies is often severely disappointing to newcomers to amateur astronomy, because they typically just appear as a very dark grey fuzzy spot - if you can see one at all. The reason that you cannot see them in color is that dim objects are picked up with the monochromatic rod cells in the retina of the eye, not the cone cells which allow you to differentiate colors. Typically one actually spots galaxies by looking out of the corner of ones eye, where there are more rod cells.

The stunning pictures of galaxies that you see are taken by exposing film (or a CCD) for several minutes. Other than possibly Andromeda or a few other local galaxies, I imagine that it would be difficult if not impossible to see any color at all with the naked eye, even through a huge telescope.

All of the stars in our galaxy, as well as Andromeda and the other local galaxies in our group which you might have a chance at seeing the color of, are actually not expanding away from us. Andromeda is actually coming towards us and should collide with our galaxy in the next few hundred million or billion years. It is only at an extremely large scale, on the order of 100 million light-years, that one sees everything receding away from us uniformly. So all of the many galaxies that actually are redshifted are so far away that it is barely possible to see them with the naked eye at all, much less in color.

Even if you could see the color of galaxies expanding away from our local group, the wavelength shift is only on the order of 0.1% or so, so the difference in hue would probably not be detectable - you really need a precise spectrometer to be able to tell the difference.

In addition to these difficulties, I imagine that it would be difficult to convince many amateur astronomers to bring very expensive optics to the harsh environment of the playa. I decided not to bring my $400 pair of binoculars, even though the stargazing would have been spectacular by east-coast standards, as I was afraid of what playa-dust might do to the lens coatings.

I hate to be so negative as I like the spirit of your idea. One thing that the playa is good for is lasers, and you could put an array of lasers on a motorized mount and point to distant galaxies, even if these galaxies would probably not be visible to the naked eye. You could then have pictures of the galaxies on display, with details of how much they are redshifted, how quickly they are receding away from us, and how long the light from them has taken to reach us.

There are a lot of cool things that one can see with the naked eye on a reasonably inexpensive telescope. Saturn and Jupiter are truly spectacular, and there are many star clusters which are beautiful as well. Large scale structure of the universe is just harder to see.
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby danprater » Thu Dec 22, 2011 2:32 pm

Perfect response, 5280! Thank you! I might instead just buy a somewhat affordable telescope and stick it out on the playa somewhere for people to play with. Maybe bolt it to the man, I don't know. But I can still project the Mirror Mask movie in camp, have some couches, and just let people chill at night with it. That would still be fun. Maybe that, and Pink Floyd The Wall. And who knows what else. I'm up for suggestions.

Again, thank you all!
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby aresvalles » Sun Jan 01, 2012 11:14 pm

I agree that it wouldn't be observable in a practical manner there. I may actually bring a 8" scope to the playa this year and have been toying with the idea of an observatory. Has anyone here seen it done before? I found some information on one built in 2004, but ran into deadends.
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby Noboundaries » Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:04 am

Telescopes are a fun idea, but not for 2012, at least not at night. Unfortunately for skywatchers the moon for this year's Burn is in the waxing gibbous phase starting on 8/27. That means it is growing from more than half full on the 27th to a full moon on the 31st. Not only is the waxing gibbous phase one of the two least intersting phases to observe the moon with a telescope, the bright sunlight reflected off the moon and scattered through our atmosphere pretty much fuzzes out any deep sky objects (galaxies, nebulae, etc) that can be seen with even the largest amateur telescopes. The larger and closer planets would be fine, but with the exception of Saturn, they lack the wow factor. Color and red shift? Not through an eyepiece with the naked eye.

Now, sunspots are going to peak in 2012 so a telescope in the daytime with a solar filter could prove interesting. You'd just have to take mechanical precautions to ensure a practical joker couldn't pull your filter off while someone was observing the sun, causing instant blindness to the observer.
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby lemur » Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:17 am

Noboundaries wrote:You'd just have to take mechanical precautions to ensure a practical joker couldn't pull your filter off while someone was observing the sun, causing instant blindness to the observer.



Instant blindness ? sure.. but i bet it'd smell delicious.
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Re: Amateur astronomers, unite!

Postby AbundantChoice » Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:58 am

Noboundaries wrote:Now, sunspots are going to peak in 2012 so a telescope in the daytime with a solar filter could prove interesting. You'd just have to take mechanical precautions to ensure a practical joker couldn't pull your filter off while someone was observing the sun, causing instant blindness to the observer.


Instant blindness gonna get you
Gonna melt your eyes right outta your face
You better get to the med tent darling
your eyes better 'leave no trace'
How in the world you gonna see
Laughing at shirtcocks dangling free
Who on earth d'you think you are?
A MOOPerstar? Well right you are

Well we all blind on
From staring through a lens at the sun
Well we all blind on
Every one, come on

...

seriously though, bring the telescope, even if only to look at the planets. Sounds cool. I had my mind totally blown by the night sky in southern Utah last year. I'm sure light pollution is pretty terrible in BRC, but set it up far out in Deep Playa and there might be some neat things to see.
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