Events 4

I was aiming to take their imagination for a ride as well. A look at “Little Smokie”, or M57 the Ring Nebula was a starter treat in the 380mm reflector. A small fellow was so impressed he got down on his haunches and line-sighted the telescope in to find where the big Dobson was pointed at. I helped him find it with a laser pointer. My next stop on the train of imaginary tracks was the Andromeda Galaxy. Even the parents got a kick from this extended object. A review of our place in the Milky Way helped to set the mood for the vast distance to our large neighboring galaxy.

Many times the group thanked us for our presentation. We were able to get an open invitation to do it again on another evening soon. Mars rose as we packed and drifted off like a carnival of magicians, leaving the spackled sky overhead as our calling cards.

-David Ryle


Spitzer Space telescope teleconference

July 21,2005
Bolin Science Hall
Midwestern State University
Wichita Falls, Texas

Dr. Michelle Thaller and the Night Sky Network through the Astronomical Society of the Pacific presented a live teleconference about the Spitzer Space Telescope. The teleconference was hosted for Starlight Observers League members and MSU students by the Physics Department and Dr. John Rhoads.
About 25 students and SOL members were present and included a distant traveller – Larry Smith of Three Rivers Foundation for the Arts and Sciences from Crowell, Texas. Prior to the live event, I was able to pass around some preliminary photographic records made by the Spitzer infra red cameras.

The introductions from Dr. Rhoads preceeded the initial hookup to the NSN broadcast and we all settled in for a 45 minute program. Dr. Thaller was most fluent in the technical acheivements of the telescope and brought a lot of human interest to the discussion too. This gave us the feeling of how important and respected the mission of the instrument is in the scientific community. A full explanation of the capabilities and ground-breaking discoveries was presented, and my favorite part was when the mention of extra-Solar planetary systems was revealed. I also learned more about exactly what we were seeing in the images. The ability to see through the intervening interstellar dust and gas and see hidden features and large structures in our galaxy and beyond was very exciting.

A question and answer session followed the main lecture and there were some good points made. As a seasoned Astrophysicist, Dr. Thaller was able to explain some finer details of the physics of light and how it played in the scheme of things with astronomy. A new level of understanding was what I took home from this program and felt honored to be a part of the event.

-David Ryle