Oct

21

 I'm absolutely thrilled. My sister-in-law MaryAnne Vacho Angliongto is the rocket scientist (astrophysics) of the family and I was a wannabe astronomer (childhood dream). I had that chance finally when we booked a night in the (public) Advanced Observing Program at Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona while on a vacation and family gathering in Tucson, Arizona. The night of April 19, 2002 MaryAnne photographed spiral galaxy NGC5850 in the constellation Virgo, while I opted for a galactic cluster (cluster of galaxies - not stars) in Coma Berenices including galaxy NGC4889, on a professional telescope in a dome with all the software and photographic gear. We were trying for colour, but there were technical problems and we didn't have time to do all the runs with colour filtration (the images then get reassembled by the software to produce a colour image), but we still got very impressive black and white images.

I thought I had lost the images over the years changing from computer to computer, but I just found, buried away in old files, the original CD the observatory had given to us!

Finally, what is super cool, is that unbeknownst to me until I just googled NGC4889, is that apparently it contains one of the two largest known black holes in the universe! In 2002 I was photographing not only a galactic cluster, but a massive black hole (you won't see that in the photo - but it was there). In its photo, NGC4889 is the brightest object near the bottom right.

I highly recommend this is a very different experience you may wish to try with a spouse, friend or on older child (especially a child — to fire their imagination. My father and my son Ben went up the night before). The format is that you book the telescope and a volunteer for a night from 10PM to 6AM. You have dinner on the mountain at midnight with the astronomers, set up and observe till dawn, and then you have the dormitory during the morning to get some sleep - all in a spectacular mountain/desert setting in southern Arizona. If/when you do book make sure it's the night of a new moon or a negligible one if you want to get the best out of observing deep-sky objects. You can visually observe, or you can do photography (my choice). To save time, you should probably plan what you wish to see ahead of time. I was just photographing one small piece of space (a fascinating one mind you), while my dad made a list of about 50 things he wanted to visually observe.

Here are the program and pricing details.


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