Monday, September 24, 2012

Onan Observatory, Minnesota Astronomical Society

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Last Saturday, in conjunction with the somewhat-I-think-arbitrarily-named International Observe the Moon Night. I have been looking for an amateur astronomy group over here since I came, looking in the U of M with no success. Then, I went on to the state-wide Minnesota Astronomical Society,got to know the president Dave Falkner, and he brought me to this super super awesome flagship observatory of the MAS – Onan Observatory.

Onan Observatory is at Baylor Regional Park, in a small town called Norwood- Young America about an hour’s drive west from Minneapolis. It features a sliding roof design, complete with two Celestron C-14 on a Paramount ME and a Meade LX200 on a built mount(left pic, left to right), and even a 20-inch Obsession (right pic)!

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The Onan Observatory is open every other Saturday night (1st and 3rd quarter moon) for the Public Star Party – in which I am one of the participants on that night! That night there was a beautiful first quarter moon hanging low in the sky – and the constellations appears one by one as the sun sets – Big Dipper, Little Dipper and Polaris, Pegasus, Sagittarius, Cassiopeia… just to name a few. As the public was enthralled by the magnificent views of clusters and galaxies by the high-power telescopes, Dave told stories about the Greco Roman mythologies associated with the constellations. It turned out that Dave actually wrote a book about the subject – The Mythology of the Night Sky!

The picture below is an afocal Moon shot taken by me using a member, Steve Baranski’s 5-inch apochromatic telescope. It turned out pretty well! Might be because I am used to refractor afocals haha! The visitors came, asked loads of questions and enjoyed the beautiful clear night sky, so clear that we can see traces of the Summer Milky Way. They were treated to loads of goodies, and learnt a lot about star clusters and galaxies (since we’re mostly seeing them). The weather was exceptionally chilly too, the hothouse was a great respite from the freeze. I chatted with the old-timers with loads of experience over cups of hot coffee. This is an amazing astronomical society!

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One notable nifty thing in the observatory is the ‘Live View’ television that hooks up to one of the C-14s and streams the images onto the screen. It allowed many people to view the galaxies at once, and through imaging the galaxy arms and clusters are boosted and looks more magnificent! For example, left is the spiral galaxy M101 Pinwhee, and right is the globular cluster M13 Hercules!

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All in all, Onan Observatory is a trip where I enjoyed myself drowning in astronomical awesomeness so much in the recent years – reminiscent of the first time I went to the Penang Astronomy Convention last July :D Definitely looking forward to come to Onan again!


More info :

Minnesota Astronomical Society webpage : www.mnastro.org                                        

Onan Public Star Party Calendar : http://www.mnastro.org/events/showonanpublic.php

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