Science at APOagaughan | March 13, 2014
We were scheduled for three first half nights of observing here at Apache Point Observatory, which means a 7pm – 1am time slot for using the 3.5m telescope. Luckily, we had great observing conditions our first two nights, but our third night we had pretty cruddy conditions, with seeing consistently over two arcseconds.
Our first night, we obtained images using SPICam in four different bands, h-alpha, g, r and R. We took time series observations of four fields around the dwarf galaxy Segue I, which will contribute more data to the light curves of the RR Lyrae variable stars in this galaxy. We also looked at a newly discovered galaxy. Here is a sample of one of the science images we obtained:
Our second and third nights of observing we switched to DIS to get spectra of a few different eclipsing binaries and some candidate M Giant stars. From the spectra of the candidate M Giants we will be able to find their distances, which will assist in the mapping of the outer reaches of the Milky Way. We were also able to observe the contact binary V535 Aur at quadrature, the point where the two stars composing the binary pair are farthest from each other in the sky, which was very exciting! Here is a sample of a spectrum we obtained from DIS:
On the third night, we hoped to observe some RR Lyrae in the dwarf galaxy Ursa Major II that were found by students working at Haverford this past summer, but unfortunately they were too faint to be observed under less than stellar observing conditions.
While observing, some of the students have already been working on reducing our data in IRAF to prepare it for analysis.
This is the reduced spectrum for the eclipsing binary WY Tau (props to Kai Faris). Absorption lines are clearly visible in the blackbody spectrum, and the high signal to noise makes us all very happy astronomers! Tonight, after we complete our final night of observing, the 3.5m telescope is being used in a mission to measure the precise distance to the moon by aiming a laser at the moon and timing the return of reflected photons, so we will be able to go outside and watch a laser be shot at the moon.
NSF AST-1151462, the KINSC, and the Green Fund provide support for our student trips to observatories.