Astronomy assignment: Telescope Observation

Solution

Making astronomical observations suing a telescope enables observation of otherwise indiscernible objects. The telescope used is a reflector telescope.  The instrument works by collecting and converging light to form an image. A curved mirror is used for this purpose, focusing light from distant objects into a focal point from where observations can be made. The telescope’s use of curved reflective mirror and a high power magnifier enables the amplification of light from distant objects. Using this instrument, astronomers can make out faint objects in the night sky and detect the characteristics of light from the night sky. To effectively operate a telescope such as the 21 inch and 8 inch pieces at the observatory, it is crucial to have freedom from artificial light. The dome in which these telescope are situated serves this purpose ideally. The stricture is free of artificial light and is situated in a relatively dark section of the compound. The dome is also very stable. It is not bordered by a busy road, meaning ground vibrations from motor vehicles are not an issue. Consequently, the observatory makes for a stable operation surface for the telescopes.

Making observations on this instrument required me to schedule my observations for a clear night sky with little or no moonlight. This is because the light from distant celestial objects is often very faint and undetectable in though cloud cover. Additionally, intense moonlight makes it difficult to make accurate observations. The telescope operation also determines viewing accuracy. For this reason, the instrument is mounted on a support stand that permits smooth movement and comfortable operation. For the practical, I got assistance from two telescope operators who mainly helped me move the instrument from one object to the other. They also assisted me to get a stable operating point. With their help, I was able to make several observation using both the 8 inch and 21 inch reflector telescopes. This was in part attributable the conducive night sky conditions. The sky’s cloud cover was minimal and there was minimal moonlight.

The observation session was conducted at *333 magnification. This configuration allowed me to amplify the light from the observed objects and distinguish between closely spaced bodies. This setting was especially useful for observation of the globular cluster. The densely concentrate stars would have been indistinguishable from each other were it not for the telescope’s magnifying power. With assistance from the operator, I was able to trace celestial bodies with ease. This is because the location of each object can be determined from a map of the sky. Their acquaintance with the celestial features to be observed enabled them to move the telescope from one feature to the other with relative ease.  My observations ranged from a planet to globular clusters as detailed below.

The planet Uranus was clearly observable using the 21 inch telescope. The planet appeared as a pale dot of bluish light. Though it was not possible to make out any features on the dot, the object was clearly identifiable in the night sky. The planet is a member of the solar system and is seventh in position from the sun. It orbits the sun very slowly, taking 84 years to complete a revolution. For this reason, it is difficult to detect its motion around the sun. Consequently, scientists long classified it as star until William Herschel discovered that it was a planet. This planet’s bluish hue is attributed to methane in its atmosphere. The planet is heavily tiled, with its axis inclined towards the sun. The planet is called am ice giant because it is mainly composed of solid ammonia, water and methane. The planet’s heavy tilt and slow revolution means that its surface experiences long and extreme changes in weather. Even though the intensity of sunlight on the poles is more than that on the equator, the planet is still warmest on the equator. Uranus is orbited by 27 moons. It also has a system of rings similar to those on Saturn. The planet is 4 times larger than the earth and is mainly composed of icy water, ammonia and methane. Its dense atmosphere makes it difficult to observe the surface, though massive storms have been seen taking place it the atmosphere.

Uranus’s tilted axis is its most distinguishable feature. This feature is thought to have resulted from a collision of the planet with an earth-like object. Uranus’s relatively cool core is also thought to be the result of this collision. When planets collide, the impact may drive out a section of their interior, causing them to lose their internal heat to outer space. The presence of water on Uranus makes means that it is a possible candidate for extra terraria life. Consequently this planet is a major subject of research into extra-terrestrial life. The observation of this planet confirmed that it is one of the dimmest planets in the night sky. While planets such as Venus and Mars are easily viewable, Uranus is barely visible to the eye. The telescope observation confirmed that it poorly reflects sunlight. This is a result of its atmospheric clouds.

Using the 21 inch telescope and the 8 inch finder, I also observed the Al Mach star system. This is a multiple star system located in the Andromeda constellation. The star system appears bright spot in Andromeda and appears orange with a bluish segment. This color is attributable to the fact that Al Mach is a binary star system. One of its stars, the bigger K-type star is bright orange n color. The other is bluish in color and is in fact a collection of 3 small stars. As such, Al Mach is composed of 4 different stars. This star system is over 300 light years away from the solar system. The contrast of color between the two points of light on Al Mach makes differentiates from most star systems which display homogenous light. Al Mach’s constituent stars revolve about common centers of gravity. This type of star system has been observed to be relatively common across t universe. Nevertheless, Al Mach’s brightness makes it an outstanding feature. This brightness is due to the fact that the system is about 80 times larger than the sun. The biggest star in this system is 1500 more luminous than the sun. This star system is observable to the naked eye. Its unique characteristics make it a subject of many scientific studies on the formation of stars.

The observation also acquainted me with a globular cluster. This feature appeared as a symmetrical collection of stars that looked concerted around a central core. This was observable from the high intensity of light emanating from the cluster’s center. This cluster was observed in the northern section of the sky as a bright spot of numerous lights. The Messier-15 (M-15) cluster is a group of old stars located over 30,000 light years away from the earth. Even from this long distance, I was able to see that the cluster is densely packed with stars around its center. The cluster is hypothesized to rotate around a black hole. This hypothesis is premised on the cluster’s spherical shape and dense star concentration. From the cluster’s appearance, it is clear that a strong gravitational point is pulling thousands of stars towards the center. This point is yet to be properly understood and is termed a black hole. To the naked eye, this cluster appeared as a dim blob of light. However, the telescope enabled me to make out thousands of distinct, multicolored lights. The implication is that M15 consists of a wide variety of star and star systems. Indeed, scientists have determined that M15 has numerous variable stars systems and pulsars. The pulsars are responsible for the rapidly flickers observable from some light sources in the cluster. M15 was formed around 12 billion years ago. As such, it is mainly composed of old stars that move slowly around the central core. Using high magnitude telescopes, it is possible to see that the cluster is composed of hundreds of thousands of stars.

During the observation session, I also noted a star cluster. Compared to the globular cluster, this group of stars was not densely concentrated. The stars in this cluster had similar characteristics. The stars in this system were seen to be were bright bluish in color.  This indicates similar compositions and therefore, a common origin. These characteristics indicate that star clusters are groups of relatively young stars that have a common origin. These stars’ collective gravity holds them together. Nevertheless, this force is relatively weak and the stars continue to drift slowly away from one another. With time, star cluster members way from one another. The common characteristics observed in star clusters such as the one observed show that they are born from one molecular cloud. The clear distinction of the star cluster’s members indicates that the molecular cloud from which they had formed had been disbursed. The disintegration of molecular gas clouds is attributable to radiation from the stars which drives remnant gas away. It is therefore possible to determine a star cluster’s age by observing the amount of interstellar molecular gas present. A recently formed star cluster will still be clouded in the gas that formed it while an older one will have little or no gas clouds surrounding the cluster.

This observation familiarized me with the various components of the universe.  The amount of detail discernible through both the 8 inch and 21 inch telescope enabled me to distinguish star clusters from other sources of light. This instrument very useful at illustrating the diversity of celestial bodies in the universe. The telescope’s resourcefulness in astronomical observation has made it the primary research instrument for astronomers. The celestial bodies observed familiarized me with the large variety of celestial bodies in the universe. It is clear that the universe contains trillions of unique features, each with unique characteristics. Observing these features is an important part of understanding the origins of our planet and its closest star.

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