Stocker main telescope to make debut at winter star party

Posted by Ayleen Barbel Fattal

The Stocker AstroScience Center‘s main telescope will make its debut to the general public at the end-of-the-semester Winter Star Party this Friday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m.

Professor James Webb and FIU’s Astronomy Club host a series of Star Parties throughout the semester. These nighttime events feature a brief lecture, refreshments and music capped off by a chance at some stargazing, weather permitting. Friday’s event will include an update on the latest NASA projects.

Attendees will have the opportunity to look at the night sky through the brand new 24-inch telescope housed in the Stocker AstroScience Center’s dome – four floors up above most of the ground lights giving the telescope a clearer view of the sky than if it were located on the ground. It is perched atop a dedicated steel and concrete framework designed to isolate it from vibrations in the building providing a very stable platform for observing.

The telescope is completely automated, equipped with advanced charge coupled device (CCD) cameras, video cameras, scientific filters and RGB filters for color pictures of astronomical objects – depending on the color selected these filters will diminish all pixels that are not of the selected colors.

“The mount is massive and very stable, so astrophotos made through the telescope should be of exceptional quality. It was designed for imaging and the cameras are very sensitive,” Webb said. “The control system is identical to the ones we use for our SARA telescopes, so students can learn using the local telescope and then slide over to the next console to control a telescope at Kitt Peak National observatory in Arizona, or Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile, or even a telescope in the Canary Islands.” With this new telescope, students are able to conduct research on various solar system objects including planetary imaging as well as asteroids and comets – and, of course, the moon. The telescope provides access to observe other galaxies including the Whirlpool galaxy, Andromeda and dozens of other deep space objects.

“The sky isn’t the limit. Our students can explore the galaxy, the universe, right here from the MMC campus using our new telescope,” Webb said. “The images it is looking at can be sent to the control room, the classroom, over the internet, anywhere. Our students will get to learn to use big telescopes at international observatories by learning to use our local telescope – seeing what takes place up close rather than 2,000 miles away. There will be no other instrument like it in Miami.”

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