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Astrophysics from your Backyard – and your Laptop.

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Presentation on theme: "Astrophysics from your Backyard – and your Laptop."— Presentation transcript:

1 Astrophysics from your Backyard – and your Laptop

2 The revolutions Telescope control and tracking Solid-state digital imagers Image-processing software Online data compilations This isnt necessarily what amateur astronomy is all about, but sure is cool for those who want to go this way

3 Follow exploding supernovae…

4 Puckett Observatory (North Georgia) international SN search 2006cd 2006cf 2006cm 2006cq (courtesy Tim Puckett)

5 Track variable stars – build on the AAVSO (et al.) history spanning a century, now with new reach and precision. Pulsating white dwarfs changing pitch as they cool, Cepheid variables, eclipsing binary stars which transfer mass, dwarf novae, flaring red dwarfs, spotted stars…

6 (Brandon Atkins, UA undergrad) 4.8 hour orbital period (Brandon Atkins, UA undergrad) 4.8-hour orbital period UX Ursae Majoris Cataclysmic eclipsing binary (White dwarf+red dwarf)

7 Archived by

8 Discover and confirm extrasolar planets – via transits and gravitational lensing. One amateur team used a 16 telescope and fiber-optic spectrograph to measure the Doppler signature of the hot Jupiter orbiting Bootis. No one in the world was doing that before (Background: NASA/JPL)

9 HD Dumbbell Nebula M27

10 Transit variations Doppler shift Brightness

11 Star-star microlensing

12 Now add a planet:

13 Lensing planet around OGLE-2005-BLG-71 Udalski et al., OGLE+MOA teams, June Note need for rapid response!

14 Retrace the history of astronomy: Galaxy redshifts Variable star periods Hertzsprung-Russell diagrams and cluster ages Proper motion and parallax of local stars


16 Redshift of Seyfert galaxy NGC 4151 compared to nearby nebula NGC 2392 (16 telescope)

17 Barnards Star

18 Help save the Earth! Track potentially hazardous asteroids.

19 You are here

20 Uranus Titania/Oberon Neptune Triton Pluto A special IAU salute – the outer solar system. These images contain either 2, 3, or 4 planets.

21 Now you see them… meteor spectra (Ed Majden)

22 (Tom Gwilym) Follow spacecraft; annoy some of the folks in blue suits


24 Water dump from Shuttle (note Hubble following behind)

25 Digital detectors are really sensitive and stable Digital detectors: really sensitive and stable

26 M13 M19 M28M55 These on a night when only five stars were visible…

27 Difficult visual targets become easy even from light-polluted areas

28 High-speed planetary imaging Webcams rule! Lots of short exposures catch a few moments of calm air Image registration and stacking Sharpening: filters, wavelets…

29 Donald Parker/Sky and Telescope Wes Higgins, Oklahoma Eric Ng, Hong KongMike Salway, Australia

30 Process data from Hubble, La Palma, Mauna Kea… FITS format and the FITS Liberator Photoshop plugin FITS = Flexible Image Transport System. Internationally standardized binary format for multidimensional arrays and header (meta)data, dating to The standard for archiving from all NASA astronomy missions, all major ground-based observatories, can be written by amateur CCD software. Crack this format and you have the riches of Hubble, La Palma, ESO, GALEX, Chandra… at your fingertips.


32 Open-source image processing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity Cassini/Huygens at Saturn Archives – planetary dumpster diving

33 Jay McNeils Variable nebula in Orion Found with 3 telescope… observed with 8-meter Gemini-North

34 SOHO comets – 1185 and counting

35 Seek transient phenomena in calibrated all-sky images (

36 Discover quasars by the thousands lying in existing survey data. For extra credit, publish before some professional observing teams. (Eric Flesch, Q p - - Q A R p NVSS J R (20.7)22.5 x NVSS J X pv RXS J R 20.3(22.3) 1 x FIRSTJ R NVSS J QR p - - FIRST J Q p - 2 2QZ J X 19.1(21.8)p - x RXS J GR p 1 1 SDSS J R p NVSS J GR p 1 1 CGCG NVSS GR SDSS J

37 Helpful sites to know: SOHO data: Minor Planet Center: Puckett Observatory –

38 The limits are no longer in hardware, nor software, but in wetware. This is just as true for professionals…

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