Observatory Visitor Night
Feb 3rd 2000 - Liam Kennedy - OCA
University of California, Irvine operates a 24" Telescope. While
mainly used by the University for teaching, and also by their Astronomy
club - it is occasionally opened for an evening of public viewing every
three months or so.
As I live in Irvine
myself, while driving to Fashion Island I have often passed the fields
where the observatory stands and wondered how good the facilities are.
I decided their announcement of the second visitors evening on February
3rd 2000, to which I placed a link on our own web site, was reason enough
that I should find out a little more about this observatory.
I arrived at the observatory
at around 7pm, parking my car in the fields with the observatory just
behind the hill, it was already pretty dark and I just followed the remaining
gravel road to find a long line of visitors already queued up waiting
to have their chance at looking through the observatory. There were three
scopes setup outside the observatory (also with some long lines). These
scopes included a 6" Newtonian, an 8" Celestron Schmitt-Cassegrain
and a 14" Schmitt Cassegrain. They were variously trained on Sirius,
Jupiter and Saturn which were visible through the cloud breaks which were
I was somewhat surprised
by how dark the area was. Light pollution is definitely quite pronounced
- but the fields around the observatory do seem to provide some buffer
zone to the lighting from the adjacent housing areas.
After spending some
time looking through the smaller scopes - and finding the line to the
observatory was not getting any smaller (there must have been nearly a
hundred people lining up) I decided to take my place in the line. The
people visiting the observatory varied from students of the university
and their friends and family, along with local residents, and children
from nearby schools.
Below are some photos
which I took while there.
The children of UCI
An action photograph. The children who turned up came from around
the local area. They were all very interested in what the telescopes
were showing. Danny Klasher is on the far right and next to him
is Mark Wimbley.
the 24" Telecope...
The scope was mainly being pointed at the Orion Nebula (M42) which
was occasionally visible when the clouds left a little gap. A very
informative leaflet with information on M42 including a color photograph
was provided for everyone who was interested.
Not to be confused with Tammy "I"
(Professor Tammy Smecker-Hane - who organized the visitors evening).
(Tammy Bosler) is a graduate student who for her real job is analyzing
M92 and other globular cluster stars to determine their chemical
Tammy provided informative
information and physical assistance for the smaller folks in the
crowd to reach the eyepiece.
Another OCA Member
I was not the only OCA Member at the visitors evening. Here is a
picture of Bob Wilkins who found the announcement on the OCA web
site and decided to check things out.
High Energy Astrophysicist.
Anthony Shoup was providing an entertaining and informative introduction
to the evening observing to all those awaiting their chance to look
through the 24". Anthony is responsible for the control software
on the 24" - which runs on an old 386 running windows. His
software makes the telescope appear as an LX200 and allows it to
be controlled by "The Sky" software.
In his other job - Anthony
works on a 60 Meter telescope (no kidding). This rather special
telescope resides at an 8000 ft elevation in New Mexico. More details
Although I did not
manage to get a photograph - Tammy "I"
(Tammy Smecker-Hane) was also at the visitors evening. Tammy (an Assistant
Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy) is the one who organizes
the visitors evening. In her day job she measures star formation, history
and chemical compositions of galaxies (mainly the closer ones to us).
The Hubble is among the many telescopic instruments she has worked with
including the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.
I was very glad of
the opportunity to visit the UCI Observatory and meet with the staff.
Every public event such as this serves as a wonderful opportunity to foster
further understanding of the wonders of the universe that we can all experience
just by looking through a telescope. I will definitely be attending more
of these events. Thanks to the UCI Observatory for a wonderful evening!
You can sign up to
get email notices for future visitor nights on the Observatory web page.
The UCI Observatory
home page can be viewed at http://www.physics.uci.edu/~observat/