Alt-Az Initiative


Alt-AZ Initiative
Telescope & Instrument Developments
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Student Research & Development as Education


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Alt-Az Telescope and Research Workshops
during the

Oregon Star Party
August 13-14, 2010

Large Alt-Az Telescope Forum
Presentations, Panel Discussion, and Walkabout

Friday, August 13, 1:00-3:30 PM, Oregon Star Party 2010
(Click Here

Oregon Star Party 2010
Science Workshop

Thursday August 12 – Saturday August 14 
(Click here)

Large Alt-Az Telescope Forum

Presentations, Panel Discussion, and Walkabout

Friday, August 13, 1:00-3:30 PM, Oregon Star Party 2010 

Amateur telescope makers have broken the 1-meter telescope barrier, and are now rapidly heading toward 1.5 and even 2.0 meter portable telescopes. OSP2010 will feature large alt-az telescope forum consisting of a number of short PowerPoint presentations, a panel discussion, and a special Mel Bartels guided large scope walkabout.  The key to large aperture portable telescopes is, of course, affordable lightweight mirrors, and advances are being made in meniscus, foam glass, spun epoxy and other mirror technologies.  Advances in other key areas include direct drive motors and controllers (no gears, belts, or friction rollers) and large telescope portability.  While some portable large alt-az telescopes will be used for stunning visual observations—deep observing—others will be non-imaging “photon funnels” used either signally or in arrays for light bucket photometric or spectroscopic observations. 

Oregon Star Party 2010 Science Workshop

The Oregon Star Party (OSP) 2010 Science Workshop will feature quantitative measurements of visual double stars with both equatorial and Dobsonian telescopes equipped with Celestron Micro Guide astrometric eyepieces, followed by analysis of the observations and preparation of a paper for publication in the Journal of Double Star Observations (JDSO). The star party workshop is based on a one-weekend research seminar held at Pine Mountain Observatory during the last two summers (Genet et al 2010). Russ Genet and Jo Johnson will introduce small telescope science and visual double star observations in a general interest one hour session on Thursday (2:00 PM). This will be followed by a one-hour “how to” working session for workshop participants led by Jo. Observations will be made that night, the data will be analyzed on Friday, and a paper prepared for publication. A general interest, one hour wrap-up/summary PowerPoint presentation will be given on Saturday at 1:00 PM describing how this pioneering workshop went and the scientific results. To our knowledge, this will be the first ever science workshop at a major star party with observational results published in a scientific journal.

Double stars make particularly excellent targets for both students and amateur astronomers. The concepts, mathematics, and observations involved are straightforward. To measure the angular separation, the observer needs to measure the scale constant for the linear scale of the eyepiece in arc seconds per division via a drift calibration, count the number of divisions between the primary and secondary stars, and multiply the number of divisions by this scale constant. Position angle is measured relative to the north celestial pole by aligning the stars along the linear scale and allowing the primary star to drift from the center of the eyepiece to an outer protractor. A small correction is needed to calculate the position angle when the Celestron Micro-Guide eyepiece is used (Teague 2004).

Most double star researchers try to answer two questions: 1) is the double star an optical, coincidental line-of-sight double or a gravitationally bound binary system? 2) if the double star is a binary, what are masses of the two components? To answer the first question, astronomers look at the stars' two dimensional proper motion vectors and trigonometric parallax (Arnold 2010). To answer the second, astronomers use Isaac Newton's version of Johannes Kepler's Third Law.  Although answering these questions usually requires observations spread over many years, each individual observation adds to the final solution.  The individual observations, published in the in the Journal of Double Star Observations, are additionally published in the Washington Double Star Catalog maintained by the US Naval Observatory, adding to some two centuries of visual double star observations.

            The equipment required to make scientifically useful visual double star observations is affordable, as only a telescope, astrometric eyepiece, and simple stop watch are needed. Quality observations have been made on telescopes as small as three inches (Grisham 2008). There are two common laser-etched astrometric eyepieces, the Meade and Celestron, each of which cost around $150.  We prefer the Celestron eyepiece as its double, slightly spaced apart “ruler” allows dimmer stars to be seen with precision between the two rulers.

            Finally, the Journal of Double Star Observations offers swift, quality publication which allows students and amateur astronomers to experience both technical science writing and peer review. Many experts in the field are willing to offer advice and collaborate which helps neophytes complete their analysis and paper. The research and science writing experience is directly applicable to master’s theses, dissertations, and executive summaries.


Thursday 12 August
Introduction to Small Telescope Science and Visual Double Star Observations
(main tent)
Everyone is invited to get a feel for what this is all about.

2:00-3:00   Overview:  Small Telescopes & Astronomical Research, Russ Genet & Jo Johnson.
3:00-4:00   Tutorial: How to Measure Visual Double Stars, Jo Johnson

 Working Sessions for Visual Double Star Teams (only)
Thursday 12 August

5:00-7:00   Get acquainted dinner together, final formation of teams.
7:00-9:00   Group tutorial observations demonstrating the process by team leaders
9:00-Late   Team observations of assigned double stars

Friday 13 August
Working Sessions for Visual Double Star Teams (only)
Late morning (to be arranged)   Data analysis

Afternoon   Complete data analysis, draft paper(s)
Evening   Group dinner, polish papers, discuss exit briefing

Saturday 14 August
Morning (to be arranged)   Finalize exit PowerPoint briefings 

Saturday 14 August
OSP2010 Science Workshop Results
(main tent)
Everyone is invited to hear the research results from the teams

1:00-2:00   Research team reports (introduced & MCed by Jo Johnson)

Arnold, Dave. 2010. Considering proper motion in the analysis of visual double star observations. In
 Small Telescopes and Astronomical Research, eds. R. Genet, J Johnson, V. Wallen. Santa Margarita, CA:
Collins Foundation Press.

Genet, Russell, Berry, Richard, Johnson, Jolyon, and Frey, Thomas. 2010. Pine Mountain Observatory summer research workshop. In Small Telescopes and Astronomical Research, eds. R. Genet, J. Johnson, V. Wallen. Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press.

Grisham, Darrell, Johnson, Jolyon, Genet, Russell, and Arnold, David. 2008. Double star measurements with a three inch Tasco telescope. Journal of Double Star Observations, 4 (1),     10-13.

Teague, Tom. 2004. Simple techniques of measurement. Observing and Measuring Visual Double Stars,
ed. Bob Argyle. London: Springer.

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