Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann

As you have probably heard by now, Comet 29P (or the Schwassmann-Wachmann comet) went into a large outburst on Feb 3rd. This outburst was first discovered by an amateur astronomer from Spain only a few hours after it had begun. It as visible all over Ireland for a brief moment, and excited a lot of interest on the news.

Richard Miles of the British Astronomical Association (BAA) has asked for help from the Faulkes telescope with observing the effects of this outburst. The outburst seems to consist of some parts of the comet's massive icy nucleus breaking off, leading to a huge outpouring of ice and a brightening of the comet.

The schools involved were contacted with information and observing times.
We have a session booked for today, and tomorrow, on the southern telescope, but it is unlikely we will be able to observe in this time because the telescope is closed due to bad weather. This is very annoying for us, as it is not the first time we have been unable to take part in observations like this.
Hoping for clear skies in Siding Springs tomorrow!
Jes team

Saturday, November 28, 2009

We won a telescope!

Last week at the opening of Irish Science and Technology week, we won Celestron NexStar 102SLT Star Locator telescope for participation in the competition. The competition has been extended again which means the main prize (a trip to Chile to see the VLT in operation) won't be awarded for another few months. The telescope was presented to us by the Mayor of Galway, Declan McDonnell, Noel Treacy TD, and Prof. Mike Redfern, one of the competiton organisers.

We havn't been able to use it yet due to the bad weather in Ireland (lots of flooding), but we have it set up and ready for when the skies clear!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Opening of the Science and Technology week 2009

We have received an email from Prof. Mike Redfern (NUI Galway) saying that we are being awarded a substantial- and mysterious!- prize for our involvement in the Faulkes telescope challenge! Prof. Redfern says that it is for our "excellent" work, and for continuing with the project.

We will be attending the opening of the Science and Technology week on Sunday at 11am, where we be presented with our prize and photographed.

We are ecstatic over here! Hearing that all our work over the past few months is being recognized and honoured like this is...indescribable. Thank you to everyone who helped us on our project and gave us feed back on the blog.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Error 500 and failed Microquasars observing.

On Oct 9 we received an email from the Faulkes Telescope team in Cardiff, asking all northern FT users to observe and help collect data on a microquasar, in conjunction with the University of Southampton and the University of Delaware. The Veritas gamma-ray telescope is being used for this.

Microquasars are an "extremely energetic subset of x-ray binaries", that are believed to have jets of material ejected from them at fractions of the speed of light.

The time period for these observations to be made was the 15th - 20th of October. We booked time for the 20th, and as we tried to log on and take control of the telescope a "Server Error 500" notice lit up the screen. We tried using a different computer but we got the same result... We don't know why this error occurred but it denied us the chance of taking part in an interesting (though confusing for us!) project. We were wondering what the server error 500 on the Faulkes telescope means. Can anyone help us?

So, although getting all the coordinates and filters off the FT team, we did not contribute to the microquasar project. This is disappointing, as we really only have time now to continue our basic micro lensing during school.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Observing interrupted again.

Once again, the weather has stopped us from getting regular observations done,It is currently 98% humidity.
The start up of the new school year has also meant we are confined to lunch hour observations, as homework takes up after school hours. So, we will be cutting back to an hour a week, on a four week rota (as weather permits).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Through to the finals!

We have just heard that we have got through to the final stage of the competition! This final will hopefully be judged in November, so this means we have a few more months to get more work done on the project before the end. We will be taking a three week break from working on our project because we are all either on holidays or at the Gaeltacht (The Gaeltacht, or Irish college, is a summer camp where students go to certain all Irish speaking parts of the country to practice their Irish. Generally the students spend 3-4 weeks at the college.)so observing will be impossible.

We have already posted a blog explaining about our plan to observe Pluto, however we have still been unable to do so because of bad weather and computer problems. We hope to get an image as soon as possible when we come back after our break.

There is also some more good news. We received a comment on our first blog entry from Dr. Micheal McKay on June 19, but we only noticed it now. Dr. McKay works in the Human Spaceflight Operations & External Projects Department, at the European Space Agency. He kindly praised our work and says he will be using our work as an example for other schools. This has given us another great boost. Dr.McKay has been Flight Operations Director for Mars and Lunar missions. We wish to thank him for this feedback, and feel honored by his praise.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Some Lightcurve Results

We have been taking pictures of microlensing targets for 2 months now and in this blog we will show the results of some of our observations on the lightcurve for one of our targets (KB-09-232).

Here is this target's lightcurve before we made our observations, on 11 June 2009

And here it is on 19 June 2009, after we made our observations

The arrows on the graph point out what our group contributed are highlighted in this image. They are shown as blue dots (H- Faulkes North Telescope) and dark green dots (I- Faulkes South Telescope).

The other points on the lightcurve are from observations made by other groups using different telescopes from around the world. The different colour letters on the right hand side of the graph show which points came from which group or telescope. Here is a list of the groups/telescopes and the letter which represents it:

Surveys (groups):

Follow-up (Telescopes):
Z(Danish 1.54m)
A(SAAO 1.0m)
C(CTIO 1.3m)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Overall project summary

This blog entry is a summary of all the work we have done over the two months of our project. There will be one or two more entries after this, but as the blog will be judged by the end of June, we feel it is important for this entry to be posted as soon as possible. We will also continue to observe as regularly as possible, so the following estimates of the work we have done will continue to increase.

We started our project early in May and after a training session with our mentor Greg Hallinan from NUIG we made our first observation on May 11th with the Faulkes Telescope.

We managed to get a total of 14 hours of actual observations done, almost equal in May and June. We were unable to observe about 13 hours of observation time which we had booked, due to the bad weather and telescope malfunctions. During that time we observed just under 20 microlensing targets and made 165 individual observations.

We have 15 blog posts so far. It is impossible to estimate the time we have spent on the blog, as we work on it in our own time, as well as in a group. As we have said before, the blog is divided into 2 aspects: writing the entries and IT. We have all spent a considerable length of time on our blog, especially since we had no previous experience with blogs before.

We have also received an email from the Faulkes Telescope mailing list asking school groups to help with another project involving Pluto. We will post a separate entry to explain our small part in this project.

Our project for this challenge has also been a part of the LCOGT microlensing project. This has been quite enjoyable and a great experience.

So, that is a basic summary of our project so far. It is now time to thank everyone again. Special Thanks to Mr. Ryder and Ms. Herbert for getting us involved in this project. A very important thank you to Gregg Hallinan for choosing such an interesting project that is part of a much larger world wide project. A big thank you to Yiannis Tsapras and Edward Gomez of LCOGT for contacting us, providing support, and helping us with our problems regarding the microlensing targets and lightcurves.

Pluto's Rotational Lightcurve

As part of the BAA (British Astronomical Association) to determine Pluto's rotational lightcurve the schools taking part in the Faulkes challenge have been asked to use a small part of their observing session to image Pluto.

Pluto's rotational lightcurve hasn't been observed since it was studied in 1995 by the Hubble Telescope. Since that time a dwarf planet has moved further away from the sun and there are indications that the cooling of the planet may have caused a change in the atmosphere and/or weather on Pluto, which might very well be visible if the rotational lightcurve is measured. This particular dwarf planet is a very slow rotator taking about 6.4 days to turn once.

The group of astronomers in charge of the faulkes telescope want us to take one RGB image to go towards their research. An RGB image, sometimes referred to as a truecolour image, is a method a taking a picture that defines red, green, and blue color components for each individual pixel. RGB images do not use a palette. The color of each pixel is determined by the combination of the red, green, and blue intensities stored in each color plane at the pixel's location. Which means that they take 1 red, 1 green and 1 blue picture and mix them together to get the real colours.

We attempted to take a picture of Pluto but, unfortunately, the telescope was closed due to bad weather. We will try again during our next session if we are granted more time. It was very exciting and an honor to be asked to help the BAA's campaign and research and we hope to post our picture of Pluto as soon as possible.

This is a good site with information on pluto

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Great news and observations

We have been in contact with Edward Gomez of LCOGT these past few weeks, and we have just heard some very nice news. Our team have been contributing greatly to the microlensing project. We have had more success than the actual astronomers! We have been booking the telescope for around 2 o'clock as much as possible (it fits in with lunch and school well). This turns out to be a very lucky turn for us, as we seem to be observing with the clearest skies.

This has made us feel rather proud about our project, as we are just a small school group, but we have been contributing even more than we thought.

Our observing has also been smooth lately. However, with 98% humidity last Friday, and a weather warning today, it is unlikely that we will get our desired 25 pictures today.

There is still no word on the judging of the blog, so we shall continue as we have until we are told otherwise. Even now the judges may be looking at our blog, so we have been tightening things up, and hoping for good news.