During our Space Night, you’ll eventually find yourself in an area with tools that allow you to look at the beautiful night sky. Each station has its own set of binoculars, Dobsonian telescope, and either a Celestron or Meade telescope mounted on an electric motor. But in the center of the telescope area sits another type of telescope. This telescope has the ability to take images of objects that are too dim for our eyes to see. This is our CCD telescope!
At first glance, there’s not much different about it. It’s a little bigger, its mount is different than the others, but instead of an eyepiece attached to the end of it, there is a special camera mounted to the front. This camera has computer cables that allow it to be controlled by a special laptop, and it can take photos of very dim space objects.
The CCD chip is a very sensitive device. It can count individual photons (particles of light) as they hit the sensor and then convert them into electrons. The more a particular area is struck by photons, the more electrons it will generate. This electrical signal is what gives us our image.
While looking through a telescope with an eyepiece, our eyeballs are doing the equivalent of taking many images every second. The telescope helps us see dimmer objects than we’d normally perceive, but there’s nothing we can do about taking longer exposures with our eyes. The CCD camera changes that. It can keep its sensors on for a long amount of time, gathering and collecting light for thousands of times greater than our eyes can.
The CCD onboard the Kepler Space Telescope. Credit: NASA
These telescopes are used all around the world by amateur and professional astronomers. They can also be found beyond our planet in space telescopes like Hubble or Kepler! These devices allow us to view faraway objects and help us unravel the mysteries of our universe.
Jupiter is one of the marvels in our solar system. Appropriately named after Zeus, it has a tremendous mass. In fact, it outweighs the rest of the planets of the solar system by a factor of two–and it knows how to throw its weight around! Its gravity holds 67 confirmed moons in orbit, including the largest four moons first discovered by Galileo known as the Galilean moons.
It also spins with incredible speed. Despite being large enough to hold 1300 Earths inside, it completes its daily rotation in only 10 hours! This means that at the equator, it is moving at 28000 miles per hour! Slight deviations from this speed cause its atmosphere contains incredible bands of clouds of different colors, including the famous Great Red Spot, a hurricane-like storm several times the size of Earth where two of these bands meet that has been raging on for at least 300 years!
Due to its larger orbit, Jupiter takes just shy of 12 years to go around the sun. This means that once every 13 months it forms a line with Earth and the Sun. With Earth squarely in the middle, the Sun and Jupiter are on opposite sides. This means that Jupiter is up while the sun is down. It is also the closest that the two planets get in their respective orbits. This year, it happens on February 6th and due to the shape of each planets’ orbit, it is the closest they will be until 2019! This arrangement is known as “Opposition”. Thirteen months later they will be back in opposition, so if you miss it, check back on March 8, 2016!
Due to the closeness of the two planets and the fact that Jupiter is up during the middle of the night during the time of greatest darkness, this is a great time to look at Jupiter. In fact, on a very dark night it is actually possible for the light from Jupiter to cast a shadow! With the 12” telescopes that we have at camp, we have a pretty big advantage over Galileo. His improved telescope in 1610 had a magnification of about 20x. The 12” telescopes are around 100x, allowing us to not only pick out its four Galilean moons, but also make out two reddish bands in Jupiter’s atmosphere, known as the North and South equatorial belts! It is truly an amazing sight.
We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. AstroCamp is a hands-on physical science program with an emphasis on astronomy and space exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and astronomical happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree in Physics or Astronomy, however it is not uncommon for them to have a Masters Degree or PhD. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science, space and astronomy information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.astrocampschool.org for additional information. Happy Reading!