What's it like to use a telescope at an observatory?
The Gemini 8-meter telescope
Observatories are located in some of the most remote places on Earth. Scientists need to be far away from the city lights to see the faintest stars and galaxies. Telescopes are often built on the tops of mountains and in desert regions, high above the moisture in the atmosphere. Dark dry skies and good weather are the ideal conditions for learning about the universe.
Astronomers typically spend a few nights at a time, up to several times per year using the telescopes at these isolated observatories. With modern digital cameras and other scientific instruments, scientists can gather so much information in such a short time that they spend the rest of the year just trying to understand it.
Several researchers who are gathering data to support NASA's Kepler satellite are sending virtual postcards from observatories around the globe to Windows to the Universe, describing their experiences. Take a look at the messages linked below, and check back often for new postcards!
Kepler Field from the dark sky park from Joanna Molenda-Zakowicz, May 6, 2010
Watching stars pulsate from Tenerife from Katrien Uytterhoeven, June 5, 2010
Winter observing in July from Katrien Uytterhoeven, July 4, 2010
Team Observing for Two Weeks from Orlagh Creevey, July 26, 2010
Stellar Properties and Lone Star Monsoons from Katrien Uytterhoeven, August 1, 2010
Staring at Kepler's eclipsing binaries from Steven Bloemen, June 18, 2011
Measuring the sizes of Kepler stars from Daniel Huber, July 06, 2011
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What is light pollution? Simply put, light pollution is the unwanted illumination of the night sky created by human activity. Light pollution is sometimes said to be an undesirable byproduct of our industrialized...more
Hi, from the dark sky park in the Izera Mountains of Poland! Do you know how many stars there are in the sky? How dark the darkness can be? Where in the sky the Kepler space telescope is looking? You...more
I am Katrien, a Belgian astronomer. I have been working in several European countries and I am currently based in Paris, France. My research is very exciting as I study stars that pulsate! This means...more
Remember me? Last month I was observing targets of the Kepler space mission at Teide Observatory on Tenerife. Now I am in Chile to observe targets of the CoRoT space mission. CoRoT is a satellite devoted...more
Hi to all from the IAC80 telescope on the island of Tenerife, hidden away on the Canary Islands. Last month, one of my friends, Katrien, was here and she told you a little about observing stars that pulsate....more
Hi from McDonald Observatory in Texas! From the Lone Star State I am observing several dozen targets of the Kepler space mission. All the stars are asteroseismic targets, which means that they show stellar...more
I am Steven, an astronomer from the University of Leuven, Belgium. For 3 nights, I have been observing with the largest telescope of the Calar Alto Observatory. The observatory is located near Almeria,...more