Working at Mt. Wilson Observatory July 07, 2007

My Mt. Wilson Observatory supervisor Tom Meneghini took me up to the observatory to do some calibration tests on the 16 inch telescope. After I was done I shut down the 16 and then went over to hang out at the 60 inch telescope, seen in the photograph.

Tom was the 60 inch operator that night, and MWO Superintendant David Jurasovich was the session director. The guests were from the Forest Service, the government agency that manages the mountaintop.

They got to see a lot of “planetary nebulae”, which are stars that have died and leave behind a shell of tenuous gas. In the 60 inch you can actually see color in the objects.

In smaller amateur telescopes like my 10 inch, you can not see color in these types of objects because there is not enough light gathered to “fire” off your color cone cell receptors in your retina. You end up using your “rod” cells which are “grayscale”. This is why you do not see colors at night in dim lighting.

The 60 inch has a totally new control system that makes it much easier to operate. There is a large push button console that the operator uses to slew the telescope. As the operator holds the button smashed down, the telescope moves. As soon as pressure is released off of the button, the telescope stops. This is a good safety feature.

Eventually, the 60 inch will be operated via software command exclusively, which is the way I operate the 16 inch. The software I use on the 16 is the same software I used on the old 24 inch TIE telescope, and it is the same software I use to operate my personal telescope. To me, it makes it much easier to operate the telescope with computer software, and all of the commands are available through drop-down menus and keyboard commands.

Nest year, the 60 inch will celebrate its 100th anniversary. It will be painted in its original colors, satin black. We are provisionally planning a celebration where we will all dress in period gear circa 1907 and will have a grand time honoring this grand instrument, designed and build by former Evansville Indiana resident George Willis Ritchey


~ by matthewota on July 7, 2007.

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