Starbugs to replace spectrograph drill plates in telescopes

At our August meeting I presented a short on some new tech in astronomy. The featured device was something called a Starbug, which is a piezoelectric driven small robot. They are called bugs because the piezoelectric locomotion makes a buzzing sound when in operation. It is being applied to a system for configurable fiber optic ports to replace the much more tedious method of drill plates. The drill plate is a metal plate that has holes drilled into it to match a specific piece of the sky using a specific telescope. Fiber-optic lines are then plugged into each hole, matching a specific target (e.g. galaxy, star, or quasar) and the other end of the fiber is plugged into a spectrograph. The drill plate is then placed in the focal plane of the telescope.

Instead of drilling and plugging a one-time use plate, the Starbugs walk across a glass plate to the desired position. Computer programs are being developed to get an array of Starbugs to walk to the optimal position without colliding. Position accuracy of 10 micro-meters can be achieved.

With too much time on your hands, you can even do other things with a Starbug…

The technology is currently being developed on a telescope Australia, but it is being considered for the Giant Magellan Telescope.

Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT)
Artist concept of the Giant Magellan Telescope, currently under construction. The GMT consists of seven 8-meter mirrors arranged to form a single segmented parabola (image credit: GMTO).

 

BASS Meeting Saturday, August 20th, 7PM at SBO

Saturday, August 20th, 7PM at Sommer-Bausch Observatory (SBO), in the downstairs lab/classroom. The guest speaker will be Jacqueline Loerincs, from the Colorado School of Mines, on her experience at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, observing T Tauri stars in Orion. T Tauri’s are very young stars in the early stages of their formation that are very dynamic, with lot’s of variability on human time scales.

Jacqueline is a student in Engineering Physics at the Colorado School of Mines. This winter she went to Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory as part of the 10 week long CTIO Research Experience program. While there she spent time working with the 4-meter and the 0.9 meter telescopes doing imaging and spectroscopy related to T-Tauri stars. She is the co-author of a paper on the subject (in prep) and will be making a presentation at the upcoming American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) winter meeting in Grapevine, Tx. in early January.

By C.R. O'Dell/Rice University; NASA
By C.R. O’Dell/Rice University; NASA
Her talk will dovetail well with Dr. Reipurth’s talk relating to early star formation and the Young Stellar Objects from the last meeting.
Observing will follow one the deck telescopes, weather and equipment availability permitting (campus is in full prep mode for the incoming class, so we will have to play this part according to the real-time situation).

BASS Meeting Friday, July 15th, 7PM at SBO

Our guest speaker will be University of Hawaii researcher and professor, Dr. Bo Reipurth. He will talk about the creation and evolution of multiple-star systems (binary and triple stars, think Tatooine).  The telescope observing deck will be open for the standard Friday night open house after the meeting, weather permitting.

Dr. Reipurth became fascinated by the concept of actually seeing stars forming at an early age. While growing up in Copenhagen, he took up reading the English language Sky & Telescope magazine. “One day I read an article about small mysterious blobs called Herbig-Haro objects which might be signposts of stars in the making. I was completely captivated by the possibility that we might actually be able to see stars in the process of being born, and I have spent most of my professional career trying to learn about how stars are formed.” (image credit:  NASA, bio information from IfA News Letter No. 27-2008)

He received his PhD from the University of Copenhagen. He was also a staff astronomer at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, after which he came to the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy (CASA) at the University of Colorado as researcher and professor. In 2001 he moved to the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) at the University of Hawaii, where works presently as a research professor at the Hilo campus on the Big Island.

Parking near SBO (building 422 on the map), use lot sections 419 and 423:

CU-BASS-Parking

BASS Meeting Saturday, June 18th, 7PM at SBO

Flying a Satellite

Our guest speaker will be David Wescott, a Software Engineer at Laboratory for  Atmospheric and Space Physics. He will be discussing his experience as a flight controller for  the commissioning of the  Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) spacecraft.

After the talk, we will go up to the telescope observing deck, weather permitting. Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are all gracing our night sky right now.

 

Our previously announced speaker, Dr. Bo Reipurth, will be joining us in July.

Parking near SBO (building 422 on the map), use lot sections 419 and 423:

CU-BASS-Parking

 

BASS Meeting Saturday, May 21st, 7PM at SBO

We have reschedule Dr. Metlay from our previously announced April meeting, which was canceled to due a severe winter storm alert. She will be our speaker on Saturday May 21st, at the Sommers-Bausch Observatory on the CU Boulder campus.

The Five Moons of Pluto

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Our featured speaker this month is Dr. Suzanne T. Metlay. We will meet in the classroom/lab downstairs in the Summers-Bausch Observatory (SBO) at 7pm. Parking is free in lot sections 419 and 423 (see map below).

Charon and the other moons of Pluto have been revealed by the New Horizons spacecraft to be fascinating worlds. Using the latest imagery from NASA, let’s explore the dark deposits of Mordor near Charon’s north pole, then take a look at the red crater on Nix. Styx and Kerberos have their own surprises too! Investigate the family of objects orbiting our solar system’s 1st known dwarf planet as professional geoscientists struggle to explain what we see and why it’s there. Let’s celebrate the success of the New Horizons mission as this well-engineered marvel continues on to its next encounter in the Kuiper Belt and let’s reflect on what we may yet learn.

Suzanne Metlay is full-time faculty in Geoscience Teacher Education at Western Governors University, a fully online non-profit university founded in 1997 by 19 governors of western states, including Colorado. Previously, Suzanne taught astronomy and geology at Front Range Community College in Longmont and Fort Collins, was Operations Director for Secure World Foundation in Superior, and served as Education Programs Manager at CU-Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium.

Suzanne has a BA in History and Science from Harvard University and a PhD in Geology and Planetary Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She was awarded the Antarctica Service Medal from the Department of the Navy and National Science Foundation for fieldwork conducted as a participant in the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) in 1991.

Parking near SBO (building 422 on the map), use lot sections 419 and 423:

CU-BASS-Parking

BASS Meeting this Saturday, March 19th, at 7PM, Sommers-Bausch Observatory

Amateur Astronomy Series, Part 3, The Mount

To start out 2016 on a fresh foot, we are linking a series of meetings on the practice of amateur astronomy and the making and testing of telescopes. We will approach this from the perspective of the hobbyist, for amateur in it’s classical definition means “for the love of the thing”, not something shabby.

At the last meeting we looked at mounting the primary and secondary mirrors and a focuser in a truss tube system. This month, we will demonstrate a “Barn-door” mount. This is a simple mount that you can make at home, even if you have limited maker skills, that will allow you to track the sky. These mounts can even be used for wide-field imaging with long exposures. The prototype that we will present was built for less than $20, and a crafty person who scavenges well can build one out of scrap for almost nothing.

Observing to follow on the SBO deck telescopes, weather permitting. Dress warm!

BASS Meeting this Saturday, February 20th, at 7PM, Sommers-Bausch Observatory

Amateur Astronomy Series, Part 2, Building Up A Newtonian Telescope

To start out 2016 on a fresh foot, we are linking a series of meetings on the practice of amateur astronomy and the making and testing of telescopes. We will approach this from the perspective of the hobbyist, for amateur in it’s classical definition means “for the love of the thing”, not something shabby.

At the last meeting we looked at how to setup a Foucault tester to evaluate a mirror. At this month’s meeting we will look at mounting the primary and secondary mirrors and a focuser in a truss tube system. With these parts in place, you have a complete dark sky telescope capable of visual observing of everything from planets, to nebulae, to galaxies.

Observing to follow on the SBO deck telescopes, weather permitting. Dress warm!

BASS Meeting this Saturday, January 16th, at 7PM, Sommers-Bausch Observatory

Amateur Astronomy Series, Part 1, Foucault Testing

To start out 2016 on a fresh foot, we are going to link a series of meetings on the practice of amateur astronomy and the making and testing of telescopes. We will approach this from the perspective of the hobbyist, for amateur in it’s classical definition means “for the love of the thing”, not something shabby.

It’s that after Holiday season time, when new amateurs with new telescopes are wanting to deepen their experience with observing. For the next few meetings we will look at optics at spanning the range from casual observer to the dedicated
amateur telescope maker. For our outreach crowd we will refresh the discussion to have with our guests at outreach events. Several of our members are currently making their own scopes. Seems like a great time to spend meeting time playing around with the scopes that bring us so much enjoyment.

We will base our explorations this week off the Foucault tester and the Ronchi Ruling. These are traditional methods that give exceptional detail on the quality of an optic. When you here that a telescope has a mirror that correct to a 1/4 wave or even a 16th of a wave, what does that really mean and how can you tell? Well, we will endeavor to provide some answers. They use equipment that can built in a garage, or borrowed from someone in the area who has already built one.

These next few meetings will be distilled into short summary sheets to assist with outreach work as well.

2016 Officer Elections

It is the January meeting once again, so once again we will ask BASS members present and in good standing to cast a ballot. All members who paid dues through the end of the year in 2015, or who have already paid 2016 dues are members in good standing.

BASS Meeting this Saturday 12 December, 5-7:30 PM at Hartung’s

Annual Holiday Potluck Meeting

5:00-7:30 PM at the Hartung house in the Gunbarrel neighborhood of northeast Boulder. We are trying the idea of holding it a little earlier in the evening this year to allow people to move on to other holiday events if they find their calendars full of opportunities. Bring a dish, beverages will be provided by the hosts. The dish should be something that can serve 5-10 with small plates. An appetizer format works well. We will have a little social time to talk about astro subjects, and about BASS in 2016.

BASS Meeting this Saturday 21 November, 7PM at SBO, “The Big Picture”

BASS Meeting this Saturday 21st November, 7PM at Sommers-Bausch Observatory (SBO) on the CU Boulder campus.

The feature talk will be “The Big Picture”. Some of you may be aware that BASS President Dr. Steve Hartung has taken a new position as a research scientist in a satellite imaging company. He will present on methods used in creating large mosaic images, such as those scanned by satellites orbiting  Earth, Mars, moons of Jupiter and Saturn, or any other object view up close with multiple passes.

Observing to follow, weather permitting.