Again onto the bus to continue our journey! This time, it was only a short trip down the road to the 60’’ telescope. You may call this the “baby version” of the 200, but mark my words, it was powerful. (I’ll prove it shortly ;) )
^ Let’s be real though, the mini dome was super cute.
As night fell, we all took turns looking through the actual eyepiece of the telescope, out into the cosmos.
And after we had all incorrectly identified the number of arms in a distant spiral galaxy (clearly, we’re not astrophysicists yet), the real show started.
The telescope operators and researchers that work at the Palomar observatory connected an everyday Nikon camera looking outwards through the lens of the telescope. Then, by positioning the telescope and taking 30s long exposure pictures through the camera, we got real pictures of cosmological structures. Below are all the photos recorded by that camera with a short description. Feel free to contact me or surf the web to learn more about each one!
1) M51 Whirlpool Galaxy
Spiral Galaxies can either be circular or “barred”. They can also have a variety of concentrations and lengths of “spiral arms” - the long bright tails swirling away from teh center. This Galaxy was perfectly circular with only a few spiral arms.
2) Comet - Exposure 1
There was a comet shooting across the sky that night, but you wouldn’t have known it just from looking up. These two long-exposure shots, taken three or four minutes, pointing the same direction into the sky show that it really did move!!
3) Comet - Exposure 2
4) M13 Globular Cluster in the Milky Way
Stars almost always form in groups or clusters. Globular clusters are made of older, metal-rich gases. This means that not a lot of new stars are forming in these structures.
5) M97 Owl Nebula (Planetary Nebula)
interestingly enough, planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets. They are made from stars! Planetary nebulae are the super pretty colorful pictures that we see in space calendars and on posters! They are the ejection of ionized hydrogen (H+) caused by a supernova explosion of a star. The blanket of gas surrounding the dense core gets pushed out into space. Depending on the angular momentum and rotation patterns of the star, crazy and unique planetary nebulae are formed!
6) M104 Sombrero Galaxy
One of my favorite pictures of the night, the sombrero galaxy is a “lenticular galaxy”. While spiral and elliptical galaxies have a significant amount of mass in the z direction, lenticular galaxies are almost planar - perfect disks!
7) Spiral Barred Galaxy
A spiral bar galaxy has a long bubble-like cloud of matter in its center. As a result, the arms of these galaxies push away from the center in a less-circular fashion.
8) M82 Cigar Galaxy
When elliptical galaxies collapse (due to gravitational pressure and an aging star population), they collapse along their shortest axes first. No galaxy is a perfect sphere. All elliptical galaxies can be modelled as tri-axial ellipsoids. Since FG, the gravitational force, is proportional to r-1, things that are closer together will feel more force. Thus, the shortest axis in the ellipsoid will collapse, turning the ellipsoid into a disk. Then, the second shortest axis will collapse, turning the disk into a cigar-shape.
9) Spiral bar Galaxy with Supernova!!
On the far right of this galaxy’s tail, you can see a small bright light. That, my dear readers, is a supernova! A star goes supernova when it’s core can no longer continue to react (it uses up all its fuel). Then, its core collapses and a shockwave is sent through it’s blanket of ionized hydrogen, propelling it outwards at relativistic speeds! This is seen as a huge bright light from the star. It really sticks out in this picture!
10) M57 Ring Nebula (planetary nebula)
Most pictures of planetary nebulae are taken with Infrared or Ultraviolet (or radio or microwave or gamma ray, etc) filters. We were lucky to be able to see such nice colors from this nebula from light in the visible spectrum!
The beautiful, ringed planet.By the way, have you heard this song? Gustav Holst actually wrote a symphony for the planets! Each one has a theme too. For example, one piece is “Saturn - The Bringer of Old Age”.
12) Saturn and its moons
By taking a much longer exposure shot (one minute or more), we were able to see many of Saturn’s moons!
13) NGC 4676 Mice Galaxies
When two galaxies merge, we get fantastic pictures of these crazy looking formations. Stellar arms flying all over, two cores circling each other. It’s like abstract gaalctic art!
14) M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy
At the center of every galaxy is a supermassive black hole! The incredible gravitational forces from these bodies contribute to keeping the galaxy together.
15) M64 Black Eye Galaxy
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what’s happening in this galaxy to make it look so interesting! The Black Eye Galaxy is definitely one I’ll be looking into further :)
16) Spiral Galaxy
And finally, one more galaxy for your viewing pleasure.
Thanks to …
Professor George Djorgovski,
all of the TAs that accompanied us,
and the Palomar Observatory staff for an AMAZING TRIP.
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.