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Bringing the Universe to Your Classroom!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Students, Parents and Staff Enjoy Comet Lovejoy

Students, parents and a few staff members from the Sacred Heart School, enjoyed comet viewing on the evening of January 20, 2014, at the Kohout-Dingley Observatory located on the school's campus in Kingston, MA. The event was planned and presented by Insight Observatory. The comet that was on display was Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2. The event featured a display of a 3-D model entitled "Anatomy of a Comet" that was designed and constructed by Insight Observatory's Creative Director, Paul Bonfilio. Paul greeted the attendees of the event as they entered the observatory and presented them with a brief lecture of what a comet actually is utilizing his 3-D model. After the audience listened to Paul's lecture, followed up with some questions and answers, the guests then proceeded up the stairs of the observatory to get a glimpse of this rare celestial visitor through the observatory's 11" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, operated by Insight Observatory's Project Developer, Michael Petrasko.

Insight Observatory's Creative Director, Paul Bonfilio Explains the Anatomy of a comet to students and parents
Insight Observatory's Creative Director,
Paul Bonfilio Explains the Anatomy of
a comet to students and parents.

The seeing conditions for viewing the comet through the telescope were only fair due to scattered clouds that rolled in over the course of the event. However, the thin clouds didn't hinder the observers from seeing Comet Lovejoy's nucleus and dust tail. Even though only a pair of binoculars would be more than ideal to observe the comet, the telescope's wide-field eyepiece provided observers to see about 50% of the comet in the field of view. It turns out that this evening allowed all of the attendees to get their first view of a comet ever.

C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is a long-period comet discovered on 17 August 2014 by Terry Lovejoy using an 8" Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope. The comet was discovered at apparent magnitude 15 in the southern constellation of Puppis. It is the fifth comet discovered by Terry Lovejoy.

By December 2014, the comet had brightened to roughly magnitude 7.4, making the comet a small telescope and binoculars target. By mid-December, the comet was visible to the naked eye for experienced observers with dark skies and keen eyesight.

Astrophotographer Chris Schur captured Comet Lovejoy   C/2014 Q2 with globular cluster  M79 on Dec. 28, 2014,   from Payson, Arizona.
Astrophotographer Chris Schur captured Comet Lovejoy 
C/2014 Q2 with globular cluster  M79 on Dec. 28, 2014,
 from Payson, Arizona.

On 28−29 December 2014, the comet passed 1/3° from globular cluster Messier 79. It brightened to roughly magnitude 4−5 and became one of the brightest comets located high in a dark sky in years. On 7 January 2015, the comet passed 0.469 AU ( 43,600,000 miles) from Earth. It crossed the celestial equator on 9 January 2015 becoming better seen from the northern hemisphere. The comet will come to perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on 30 January 2015 at a distance of 1.29 AU (120,000,000 miles) from the Sun.

Before entering the planetary region (epoch 1950), C/2014 Q2 had an orbital period of about 11000 years. After leaving the planetary region (epoch 2050), it will have an orbital period of about 8000 years.
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Making Our DreamScope a Reality

Hello, fellow stargazers! With all the activities Insight Observatory has been involved with recently, we feel this is a good time to revisit an old friend that we introduced back at the beginnings of Insight Observatory...

When we started Insight Observatory a few years ago we had a dream of utilizing our "in-house" telescope (built by the talented fellows at DreamScopes) in a robotic observatory under regular dark skies where it could be used by students to allow them access to the wonders of our universe without a huge financial outlay of their own.

Insight Observatory's DreamScope, waiting for a new home!
Insight Observatory's DreamScope, waiting for a new home!

We still have this dream! Our search has taken time, and we feel the best solution to our needs comes in the form of iTelescope, a company who has enjoyed immense success by providing to their subscribers' access to world-class robotic telescopes in both hemispheres. Our discussions with iTelescope have been encouraging, and even though we wish we had our telescope was up and available today, we know that sometimes the planets must align and all pieces fall into place before our desired results are achieved. 

So wherever our telescope eventually ends up - hosted by iTelescope or some other company or school - the dream is alive!
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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Amateur Astronomy Talk to be Given at Local Library

There will be a talk given on Saturday, February 7, 2015, from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm at The Cotuit Library, Cotuit, MA presented by Insight Observatory staff members Harry Hammond and Michael Petrasko, covering the topic of Amateur Astronomy and how to get started.

Amateur Astronomy Stargazing and Observing Session
Amateur Astronomy Stargazing and Observing Session

Harry and Michael have been friends exploring the path of amateur astronomy for over three decades. Harry monitors trends in astrophotography, while Michael is engaged in spreading the amateur astronomy gospel, from serving as a planetarium and education consultant to conducting "stargazing" sessions for the public. They've built telescopes, observatories, and other "Astro-gear," conducted public observing sessions, and when not seeking out dark skies for observing and astrophotography, given talks on astronomy to local groups. Their written articles, astrophotography, and tips for creating astronomical equipment have appeared in print from local publications to Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, and other magazines. Both have served as Charter members and past Presidents of the Cape Cod Astronomical Society, and Harry has also served as an officer of the South Shore Astronomical Society. Michael and fellow astronomy enthusiast, Muir Evenden, founded "Insight Observatory" back in 2011 that specializes in secondary school, college level, and public outreach astronomy education utilizing remote robotic and backyard telescopes.

This event will be followed up with public stargazing and telescope viewing on a later date to be determined in May 2015. Michael and Harry would have a 10" telescope and a few pairs of binoculars, one of which would tend to the telescope while those guests waiting for a look will have constellations and other naked-eye objects pointed out. May is a great month for observing... Lots of deep-sky objects, tolerable weather, and perhaps a planet or two will be on tap!
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