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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Insight Observatory Reflections: IC 1805 - The Heart Nebula

Insight Observatory is currently collaborating with Mr. Michael Gyra and his "Astro Junkies" at Barnstable High School, Barnstable, Massachusetts. Mr. Gyra has all five of his senior astronomy classes utilizing the Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) online remote robotic telescopes to image deep-sky objects in the night sky. The students are using Insight Observatory's Educational Image Request (EIR) form to submit their image requests to its 16" f/7 reflector remote telescope located remotely at an elevation of 7,778 ft in Pie Town, New Mexico.

This program was made possible by a generous grant from the Barnstable Education Foundation. After the students received their deep-sky images, Mr. Gyra tasked them with an assignment designated "Insight Observatory Reflections". The assignment includes students writing about their experience using Insight Observatory's ATEO-1, the result of their image, and some scientific facts about the deep-sky object. The "Astro Junkies" from his first block (Block D) were kind enough to share their papers with us. All of them were very inspiring and we would like to share a few of them with you in our blog starting with IC 1805, The "Heart Nebula"...

IC 1805, The Heart Nebula in Cassiopeia - Imaged on ATEO-1 by Lauren S. and Kristen A.
IC 1805, The "Heart Nebula" in Cassiopeia - Imaged on ATEO-1 by Lauren S. and Kristen A.

"I was working with a friend, scrolling through Insight’s website, gazing at all of the opportunities we had. We could pick M42, or M1, or M57! The possibilities seemed endless--nebulae, planets, star clusters. Finally, we came to a decision: IC 1805, The Heart Nebula in Cassiopeia. Valentine’s Day is around the corner, the nebula was in flawless view in the nighttime sky, and the timing seemed perfect. This emission nebula was laced with hydrogen, the reddish hue screaming to be imaged from the website. The decision was made in record timing: we had to image this beautiful nebula. Since it is only 7,500 light-years away from Earth, the Heart Nebula would have an advantage over some of the farther-away images. The telescope would be able to capture the detail that we had seen in professional images online.

And then came the waiting period. This was the hardest part of our project. We ached to see the beautiful nebula in all its glory. Every day was 24 hours closer to the most exciting part of our week. Finally, Mr Gyra showed us our images. My partner and I were astonished. The image came out so much better than we could have ever hoped for; the outlines of the hydrogen were exquisite, the foreground stars had the most beautiful diffraction lines I had ever seen before. The Heart Nebula had finally reached us, here on Cape Cod. This experience was completely made possible by the Barnstable Educational Foundation’s funding for our astronomical learning and the great minds over at the Insight Observatory. I personally am wholly thankful for their dedication to our education and the expansion of our horizons out into the unknown. If it weren’t for them, I probably never would have experienced something so outwardly, especially not to this degree. The BEF and Insight Observatory made it possible for students to do their own research on something they were passionate about, which is really the true essence of learning and education. This is why I am grateful for their kind efforts, and this is why I wanted to become a varsity stargazer in the first place.

With gratitude, Lauren S., Barnstable High School "Astro Junkie"."

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