The University of Southern Mississippi Seal  

The University of Southern Mississippi

International Year of Astronomy 2009
Feel free to contact me about observing!

Check back for the Fall Observing schedule.
Fall 2010 Observing Schedule
Date Time Location

April 28, 2010

AST 112 student Hannah Pickard took this picture through the 6" Intes Mk-67 Maksutov-Cassegrain seen elsewhere on this page.  This is a handheld, afocal projection, Hannah simply held her camera up to the eyepiece.
Sea of Crises and Proclus
The Sea of Crises (Mare Crisium) is the prominent gray circle at top.  The bright crater immediately below is Proclus.  Look at how the ray structure sweeps from horizontal to the left, clockwise to about 135-degrees on the right.  To the crater's left is the Sea of Fertility, while the Sea of Tranquility is below.  Note the light patch at the edge of tranquility, directly beneath Proclus.  This is known as Palus Somni--the marsh of Sleep. Next semester we might try some more convetional astrophotography, but it's nice that a student can take something like this away from an observing session.  And on that note, can you recognize the subject in the picture below, taken by Bernardo Miethe?


April 9, 2010

The students  got a look at Venus and Mercury, low in the sky in twilight.  
Saturn was well-placed for the first look our astronomy class got this season.  We looked at a few of the double stars--Algieba, Cor Caroli, iota Cancri, and Polaris--as an example of a Cepheid variable.  And UA Draconis, an example of a carnbon star, though it was tough to say if it had a dramatic red tinge.  We then looked at the Beehive (open cluster), and M3, a prominent globular cluster.  And we took a quick glance at Mars, well past January's opposition but favorably high overhead.  Here are some views from the session.

Aiming at the Beehive or Mars.
Taking aim at Mars, nearly straight up

Laura and Marie.
Laura and Marie take a break from writing notes.

March 3, 2010 Pride Field Observing Session for AST 112

A clear, but COLD night.  Participants got a look at Mars, a couple of double stars, the Orion Nebula, and a couple of the Messier open star clusters.  Some scenes from the observing session

Rodney Pevey gets a neck-straining look at Mars,

Stormy Speaks spies a double star--at a more reasonable viewing angle.

Jan 27 & Feb 19, 2010 Pride Field Observing Sessions for AST 112
We've had two observing sessions so far this semester, getting a look at Mars and the Moon each time.  We had a few faculty/staff out for the January session and hope to see more of this in the future.  And post some new pictures!

October 1, 2009 Pride Field Observing Session for AST 111
We had our first observing session for the Fall 2009 AST 111 class on Thursday, Oct. 1 under far less than ideal skies.  I set up two telescopes for an 8 PM kickoff nder what was predicted to be a partly cloudy sky that had turned into a nearly solid, but thin overcast.  We were able to see the Moon and Jupiter through occasional breaks in the clouds, and a few persistent soulls got a really nice look at these two, as well as Albireo, when the skies cleared for awhile at about 10:00 PM.
Oct 1, 2009 observing session
The 80-mm refractor is aimed at the moon, the 6" Maksutov is trained on Jupiter.

Physics graduate syudent 
Bharath Kumar Kandula supplied the pictures of this session.  Bharath held his digital camera behind the eyepiece of the 6" telescope for this afocal projection of  Jupiter (below).
Hand-held afocal projection of Jupiter, 6" f/12 Mak-Cass and 15-mm eyepiece.

And a similar, hand held afocal shot of the Moon through a light haze.
Hand held afocal image of Moon.
Many of the students noted the bright crater Aristarchus at upper right, even when haze prevented any craters from being visible clearly.

Update: Cell Phone Astronomy
If you like the handheld snapshots Bharath took, look at this picture of the Moon and Venus taken by AST 111 student 
Alanna Farmer at 0600 on Sept. 16 with her cell phone's camera!
Cell phone view of Venus and the Moon at 0600 on Sept. 16, 2009.

June 17, 2009  Observing the Sun in Wesson, Mississippi

Students in Dr. Kevin McKone's Robotics and Space Camp at Copiah-Lincoln Community College observe the Sun.  The camp is a great opportunity for these young people, be sure to check out the link!

Robotics and Space Campers
Dr. Kevin McKone invited me to visit his robotics and space campers to hold a solar observing session.  I thank Doc Kevin for the opportunityu.  Here I am (above) giving the campers a briefing on the Sun and on solar observing.  

As with the Pine Belt Girl Scouts event (Nov. 8, 2008,  below) the "Solar System" comprised a Coronado hydrogen-alpha scope (brass colored telescope in background) for prominences and my old 3" Maksutov with full-aperture solar filter (the stubby little black telescope) for a white light view of the Sun.  Both scopes were mounted in parallel on the iOptron MiniTower computerized tracking mount.

Solar system
A close-up view of the telescopes set up on the iOptron tracking mount.  In this figure I've removed the solar filter from the little black Maksutov scope.  Do not point a telescope at the Sun unless it is fitted with a safe solar filter!

After we looked at the Sun we slewed to the Moon, and removed the filter from the Maksutov to have a look.  A little tweaking of the alignment and we were able to slew to Venus.

Daylight viewing of Venus.
Doc McKone gets a look at Venus, in broad daylight.

Venus was invisible to the unaided eye, but clear in the telescope, looking like a tiny Quarter Moon. The phases of Venus were discovered by Galileo--400 years ago.

April 29, 2009  Pride Field Observing Session

Students in AST 112 get a look at the Moon, Saturn, a few double stars, an open cluster (the Beehive), and a Globular Cluster (M3).
AST 112 Students at Pride Field.
Astronomy 112 students at Pride Field observing session.  

The sky is not particularly dark at this site, and there was nearly a quarter moon, but we still got a good look at a few of the brighter deep-sky objects.  The department owns several telescopes, but here we're using my own 80-mm refractor and 152-mm Mak-Cassegrain reflector on a computerized mount..  The "fast" refractor is good when you want a low-power, wide-field view, like when you're looking at a star cluster.  The Cassegrain is great for the Moon, the planets, and close double stars.

You can see a lot of things in the sky--even with some light pollution--if you can point at them.  The computer controlled telescope mount has proven invaluable.

Students observe the sky.
Two students observe a double star from Pride Field..

...and two more students take a look.
... two of their classmates take a look....

Two more AST 112 students take a look.
...and two more...and no, their instructor did not bump his head into the telescope.

AST 112 student sets up telescope.
Shane Harrell (AST 112 student) brought his own telescope to share the sky with his classmates.

AST 112 student tries his hand at afocal astrophotography.
AST 112 student Jonathon McNeal tries his hand at afocal astrophotography through the eyepiece with his cell phone.  This works--but it's not easy.

April 2, 2009 Observing from Pride Field.

USM student photographing Moon through telescope.
USM student Kaushik Vaishnav photographs the Moon with a hand-held digital camera at the focus of a telescope (afocal method of astrophotography).)

USM students observing the Moon.
USM students Kaushik Vaishnav and Pavan Medoji enjoy a look at the Moon from Pride Field, a few days past First Quarter on April 2, 2009.

Nov 8, 2008 Girl Scouts take a look at the Sun.

Pine Belt Girl Scouts observing the Sun.
Pine Belt Girl Scouts observing the Sun on Science Day at USM, Nov. 8, 2008.

The scouts got two views of the Sun, one in filtered white light and a view of solar prominences at the hydrogen-alpha wavelength.  The brass-colored telescope on the left is a narrow-band instrument that shows solar prominences, the little black telescope at right--with neutral-density filter--afforded a "white light" view of the Sun.

2009 was the International Year of Astronomy

  Last modified:February 22 2010 18:00 Questions or comments?
The University of Southern Mississippi URL: