Observing with WIYN 3.5m Telescope
at Kitt Peak National Observatory
Posted: 30 March 2014
On Friday, 28 March 2014, my wife Laurraine, and I, along with several alumni and staff from Indiana University, went to Kitt Peak National Observatory for an observing session using the WIYN 3.5 Meter Telescope courtesy of the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences (Mike's alma mater). For three of us (Jeff Stuckey, Laurraine, and myself), this was our 8th special visit! For most of the others it was their first time at Kitt Peak and/or their first time to view through such a large telescope. After several nights of cloudy skies in southern Arizona, the weather cooperated and we were treated once again to good weather on the mountain.
For this visit to Kitt Peak I used my Nikon D7000 DSLR with a 8mm 180° fisheye lens for many of the photos of the various observatories at Kitt Peak. When appropriate, the fisheye photos have been cropped down to a more pleasing view. There are many photos here so allow time for the web page to fully load.
Upon arrival at Kitt Peak I took this photo (normal lens) of the WIYN 3.5m Telescope observatory:
Here are photos of several other observatories at Kitt Peak:
This panoramic view is from north to east:
Here are two guys who grew up in Seymour, Indiana:
During the afternoon, we had an excellent tour of the Mayall 4 Meter Telescope led by John Salzer, Chair of the Astronomy Department at IU. This shows the group heading towards the Mayall observatory (at the right):
This is a group photo from outside the 4m telescope dome:
Mouse click or tap (if using a touchscreen device) on photo to see a larger version
Here is Larry Singell, Executive Dean of the IU College of Arts and Sciences, with WIYN in the palm of his hand:
The group enjoys the view of Kitt Peak from the 4m telescope dome observation deck:
Here are several views of the 4 meter telescope:
This is John Salzer explaining the mirror resurfacing equipment:
This photo shows the pier that the 4 meter telescope is sitting on:
And this is a view from inside the pier (using the fisheye lens):
We have left the Mayall 4 Meter Telescope:
After the tour, we had a catered dinner. We received nice scarves (folded in this photo), which were greatly appreciated by everyone:
We then went to the 2.1 Meter Telescope observatory to observe sunset from the observatory catwalk outside the dome:
There were a few clouds near the horizon, which provided some color to the sunset:
After sunset, we went to the WIYN observatory for the highlight of our visit to Kitt Peak: a night of observing astronomical objects through an eyepiece on the 3.5 Meter Telescope:
This is the WIYN control room where we briefly visited with the operators:
This is the 3.5m telescope:
And this is the new One Degree Imager (ODI) on the telescope:
This view shows the constellation of Orion through the observatory slit, with the telescope secondary mirror below center:
We then began our observing session. It was awesome viewing through a telescope with a 138-inch aperture. I was able to do afocal astrophotography at the eyepiece of the objects we viewed using my D7000 DSLR. I also did some sky astrophotography from inside the observatory. The camera was handheld for all of these photographs, so some blurring will be evident. The views in the eyepiece were better than these photos show, with a much wider eyepiece field-of-view (FOV) visible to the eye vs a more narrow FOV with the camera.
Our first object was the planet Jupiter. In the eyepiece, cloud bands were easily seen. Three of the Galilean Moons were visible to the eye. This is my photo, 1/250sec, ISO 250:
This is another view of Orion as photographed through the observatory slit, 1/2sec, ISO 6400:
And this is the central portion of Messier 42 (Great Nebula in Orion) in the telescope eyepiece, 1/2sec, ISO 6400:
For comparison purposes, this is a much wider view photograph of M42 that I took with my 8" telescope in February 2012:
Next was Messier 1 (Crab Nebula). It was very nice to the eye, but too large and too faint for a good afocal photograph. Some stars and very faint nebulosity are visible in my photo, 2 second exposure, ISO 6400:
We then viewed the Eskimo Nebula. This photo was taken using a 1 second exposure, ISO 6400:
An exciting object to view was a recent supernova in the Messier 82 "Cigar" galaxy. The supernova and some "dust lanes" in the galaxy are visible in my photograph, 2 seconds, ISO 6400:
Mouseover or tap (if using a touchscreen device) on photo to see an arrow pointing to the supernova
For comparison purposes, this is a much wider view photograph I took with my 8" telescope on 22 January 2014, shortly after the supernova occurred when it was much brighter:
This is the Big Dipper (upside down) as photographed through the observatory slit, 1/2sec, ISO 6400:
Our next object was Messier 51 (the Whirlpool Galaxy). Many spiral arms were visible to the eye in the eyepiece. My photograph, 3 second exposure, ISO 6400, only shows the galaxy nucleus. After everyone had viewed the main M51 galaxy, the telescope was slewed slightly so that we could view its companion galaxy (the second photo, 4 second exposure, ISO 6400.
For comparison purposes, this is a much wider view photograph I took of M51 with my 8" telescope on 22 March 2014:
The last Deep Sky Object (DSO) we viewed was the globular cluster M3. My photograph was a 1 second exposure, ISO 6400:
The last object we viewed was the planet Mars. Here are two images of Mars that I took at the 3.5 meter telescope. The top photograph is a single frame exposure, 1/800sec, ISO 500. The North Polar Cap is visible (at the bottom). The large dark area (top) is called "Syrtis Major". Two clouds are visible; a bright blue cloud in the Hellas Basin near the south pole (top) and orographic clouds over martian volcanoes on the right side along the equator. The second image is a "stack" (merge) of 321 frames from an HD video taken with the D7000 DSLR.
Our observing session ended about 1130 PM and we turned the telescope back over to the WIYN staff so John Salzer and his graduate students could resume their research project. Thanks to John and his students for giving up so many hours of prime data collection time.
And of course, many many many thanks go out to Jeff Stuckey and his staff and the WIYN Staff for another very special night at the 3.5 meter telescope.
See my other Kitt Peak visit reports:
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