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UCI Observatory Visitor Night
Feb 3rd 2000 - Liam Kennedy - OCA Webmaster

The 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 occasionally available(!).

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 Observatory...
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.

Tammy "II"
Not to be confused with Tammy "I" (Professor Tammy Smecker-Hane - who organized the visitors evening). Tammy "II" (Tammy Bosler) is a graduate student who for her real job is analyzing M92 and other globular cluster stars to determine their chemical compositions.

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 at http://www.lanl.gov/milagro

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/

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