Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Journey To The Sun
Today we head back up to the McDonald Observatory to catch the third program that we have signed up for – Daytime Tour and Solar Viewing. There are only five of us on the tour which made for a very informal but informative session. If you want to know more about the program, check out http://mcdonaldobservatory.org/visitors/programs/tours We started out in a classroom where Kelly, our guide, talked about the sun, with lots of fun facts. We then went outside where they had two filtered telescopes set up where we could actually look at the sun. I got a little confused with the telescope that was focused on sun spots. You look in the telescope and it is all white with some little black dots on the screen. They looked like little specks of dirt. Evidently these little dirt specks were the sun spots. I guess I was a little under impressed with the sun spots.
The second telescope was focused on the edge of the sun. We could actually see solar flares happening. Well, they actually were happening in the past cause the speed of light can be a little slow sometimes. This was interesting and rather pretty to see.
We then moved on to the Big Telescopes. There were two telescopes, each housed in their own dome on top of their very own mountain top. The view from these mountain tops were stupendous – you could see mountain peaks that were over 80 miles away.
The first telescope was what you think of when you think telescopes – a big 107” diameter metal tube. I'm not sure how long it was, but this sucker was big. I actually got to play with the joystick that moved the telescope. It was great fun until Kelly had to step in and take it away from me. Bummer. Lots of interesting facts such as how they clean the mirrors – no Windex, they use CO2 sprayed on the mirrors from a distance. It is vey important that these mirrors do not get scratched – this big boy cost many millions of dollars to create (did I mention how I got to push it around?).
The second telescope was of a totally different design. Instead of one mirror, there were many smaller mirrors. It was huge also. This telescope was being fitted to try to figure out where and/or what dark energy was. I don't understand the concept of dark energy (well, I don't understand beyond the Darth Vadar type of dark energy), so I couldn't explain it to you.
The McDonald Observatory made a huge impression on me. Besides being a well run program, it was just mind-boggling to see the science and the universe through their eyes.
We came back home and Lou made some Frito Pies for dinner. I think these might be my new favorite food.