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Astronomy Heaven
Astronomy Heaven

I recently had the chance of a lifetime; to spend time in astronomy heaven. I was accepted into an astronomy camp in Arizona, sponsored by the University of Arizona. I went two years ago and we stayed at Mt. Lemmon Observatory, but this time, we were staying at Kitt Peak National Observatory for a week. Some friends from two years before were there, and we immediately began to talk about our projects. The first night was clear, and we took a tour of the telescopes we would have access to, including: the l6inch, 20inch, 36inch WIYN, 90inch Bok and the 12meter radio telescopes. The next day, after observing at the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, we began to write out our telescope project-time proposals. By sundown, after many fun and interesting activities and lectures (yes, fun lectures), the Telescope Allocation Committee had given everybody time for their projects. My project, titled Comparing the Radio and Optical Spectra of Planetary Nebula of Different Morphologies, was allocated 3hours at the Bok telescope, and 4hours at the 12meter radio telescope. That night, we started our projects, but I wasn't assigned time until the next night, so I went to the 36inch to help with my friend's project. We took pictures of several galaxies and did quasar photometry. We started the next night with dark-adaption at the 90inch, and then we separated into our research groups. I stayed at the 90inch for my project with two research team-mates and a councilor to help. I took spectra with the "B&C" spectrograph of several planetaries of different morphologies. We had some time to spare after taking 9 spectra, so we ate some doughnuts with the telescope operator, Dennis. The night of June 23rd was by far the most memorable. We started at the 90inch with a visit by an astronomical rock-star, David Levy. After a short talk, he showed us one of his favorite objects through the telescope, M13. Since there were about 30 total people waiting to take a look, I and about 10 others went out to the "Bok Walk" (balcony) to admire the brilliant sky. As I talked to my friend Harry, we noticed something off to the south. We all saw it and turned to see what it was. It was a meteor, and it got brighter and brighter. It changed from white to green to red, and then it exploded into about 15 pieces. Everyone was silent for a few seconds and then we broke out in cheers and applause. We could even hear the astronomers in the nearby 0.5meter scope cheering. At its peek, the meteor was about -12magnitude, about the size of a basketball and pieces were found 5 days later. The excitement and fun continued for the rest of the camp. The 6`h day and night were spent at Mount Graham in the LBT. It was amazing to stand in the 700ton structure as it rotated! These are only some of the things we did, I could write a 20page essay on the whole camp!

Date Taken: 06/29/2011
Author: Ian G

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