Virtual Star Party | 25 Aug, 2013

Tonight’s Virtual Star Party is now live! Joining us tonight is Gary Gonnella, David Dickinson, Mark Behrendt and Thad Szabo sharing their views and talking all things...

VSP Photo Contest Winners


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In the second week of May, we at the Virtual Star Party on Google+ decided to hold a contest. Every week, we have a live show where we connect telescopes to cameras from across the world and stream their views live into a Google+ Hangout On Air. While this is happening, however, many other astronomers have started adding their photos into the Event, sharing their still images while we’re live. Because of this fantastic amount of interaction and engagement with our audience, we went forward with a photo contest, where the winners would have their astrophotography featured on the banners, icons and various graphics we use on the show and social media outlets. The response was nothing short of breathtaking. There were about 120 entries submitted in total. Men and Women from across the world joined in by looking up into the Cosmos, capturing those moments, then shared them with the rest of us in the contest. Various types of optics were used, from 14″ Newtonian telescopes to 135mm camera lenses to binoculars. This doesn’t even include the different cameras used! Modified DSLR cameras pitted against dedicated telescope detectors with some iPhone shots thrown into the mix as well! At the end of the day, I was left with the overwhelming task of being the judge of this contest. It wasn’t easy, to say the least. There were no precise criteria that were taken into consideration, except that it needed to be their own work with the details of the object, optics and detector used to capture the image. All sorts of different objects were submitted: Moon, Nebulae, Galaxies,...

James Webb Space Telescope at SXSWi

From 8-11 March, 2013 I was down in Austin, TX with a large collaboration focused on providing outreach for the James Webb Space Telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute from Baltimore, Maryland gathered with Microsoft Research, Northrop Grumman, Ball Aerospace, NASA, University of Texas and CosmoQuest in order to provide public outreach at South by Southwest Interactive for the upcoming successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. To solidify its magnitude, a full-scale model of JWST was shipped and assembled between the Long Center for Performing Arts and the Palmer Center in Austin, right off of Riverside. The model reached 4 stories into the sky, covering an area the size of a tennis court, dwarfing anything around it, as you can see to the left. I experienced so many firsts, least of which being my first time attending South by Southwest. It was my first time in Texas, let alone Austin, and it’s an absolutely gorgeous and fun city to visit. Though I didn’t have much time to explore, working 12+ days for SXSW, we still were able to appreciate many local eateries, including Kerbey Lane Cafe. This was also the first time I physically met my Virtual Star Party Co-Host (and general e-partner-in-crime), Fraser Cain. It was quite amazing how though we’d never met in person, our working together for over a year using the Google+ Hangout platform had made it so we really knew one another. It allowed us to understand each other’s cues and have some fantastic opportunities for outreach, not to mention some extremely successful Hangouts On Air broadcasts while at SXSWi. It was International Women’s...

Virtual Star Party – 23 December, 2012

In this episode of the Virtual Star Party, Scott Lewis and Dr. Thad Szabo work with astronomers Paul Stewart and Peter Lake and discuss their live observations. Paul Stewart first started the show by observing Venus live in the daytime from New Zealand, while Scott and Thad discussed it’s phase and how it’s actually possible to observe celestial bodies while it’s daylight out. From there, Paul moved along to the closest planet to the sun, Mercury, leading the discussion to why it appears so faint in the sky compared to Venus. This reason being that Venus is not only larger than Mercury and closer to Earth, but also is much more reflective of sunlight than Mercury is! After switching scopes and cameras, Paul observed our closest star, the Sun. His equipment observe light in Hydrogen Alpha, which is a very narrow band of light that is only emitted during a change in energy levels in a Hydrogen atom. The reason why this is beneficial for observing the sun is it allows us to see details of the Sun that are only visible in that range of light. Thad went along to discuss the differences in structures that we were observing on the Sun and the details of why imaging in Hydrogen Alpha is beneficial in many circumstances. Peter Lake, an astronomer from Australia, joined us at the end of the broadcast to share images from his remote observatory in New Mexico, USA. We had a brief discussion about our broadcast earlier in the month where we observed the transit of the exoplanet Qatar-1b. Peter wowed the audience, along the...
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