Physics 100: Lab Astronomy
We had the opportunity to go up to the Stanford Student abservatory and use the 24" telescope to do astronomy! We used both an imaging CCD (it is actually a Hubble Space Telescope reject CCD!) and a spetrometer to complete three lab projects. The first one was simply introducing us to the telescope, imaging, and image processing. Here is a picture we took of the Owl Nebula:
For our second project, my group made Hertzprung-Russell (H-R) diagrams for two star clusters, a newer open cluster (M67) and an old globular cluster (M53). The goal was to chart the types of stars and be able to see that the globular cluster had more red giants (older stars) than the open cluster. We were also able to estimate the distances to them and their ages. H-R diagrams are a common tool in astronomy whenever you are talking about stars, so it was really cool to be able to make our own and see features like the red giant turnoff, the main sequence, and the horizontal branch.
Our third project was spectroscopy. We used the spectrometer to capture the spectra from Quasar 3C273, the brightest quasar in our sky. We also attempted another, much fainter quasar, but we were not able to make out any spectral lines. But we got a spectrum from 3C273 from which we were able to identify the Hydrogen-beta line, and from that, calculate the redshift of the quasar accurately. Learning about quasars was awesome too - they are active supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies that are emitting jets - they are also the brightest objects in our universe, as the quasar far outshines its galaxy, and allows us to see them even though they are at high redshifts.
Image from spectrometer Processed spectrum with H-beta