Location: Research Hall, Room 163
Speaker: Tom Fowler
Topic: Electronically Assisted Astronomy
For amateur astronomers today it is “the best of times and the worst of times,” to paraphrase Dickens. We have at our disposal a veritable banquet of sophisticated equipment, much of it superior in quality to most professional equipment of a few generations ago. But we also have the plague of light pollution, negating much of the capability of our fine instruments. Here we will investigate what we can see, under various conditions, and what we can do to improve the situation. We will examine the three principal ways of doing astronomy, of which Electronically Assisted Astronomy or EAA is the newest. We will examine how EAA works, and then discuss several topics that relate to the improvement in your view of objects with EAA. These topics include the differences between stars and extended objects, how the eye works, bit depth, and exposures. We will also look at limiting photographic magnitude and how it affects EAA procedures. We will conclude with a discussion of several types of EAA equipment, EAA viewing methods, and some demos. Along the way we will look at many EAA images and compare them with what can be seen visually as well as with long-exposure photographs of the same objects.
Bio: Dr. Tom Fowler is an Adjunct Professor at GMU and has been an avid amateur astronomer for many years. He began exploring EAA to answer the question of what you can actually see when looking through a telescope, and how to overcome the limitations of purely visual astronomy, especially given the increasing levels of light pollution nearly everywhere.
NOVAC’s general meetings are open to club members and the general public alike, and are held on the campus of George Mason University (directions) in Fairfax, Virginia. Research Hall is easily identified by the observatory attached to the side of the building. Paid parking is available in the Shenandoah parking structure. Some members have also chosen to park across the street in the far reaches of the Patriot Center’s parking lot, then walk up the path to Research Hall.
Meetings start at 7:00 PM, generally on the second Sunday of every month (with the exception of May, when we meet earlier or later to avoid a conflict with Mother’s Day). If you come earlier you can do a little socializing. The first part of the meeting is club business, during which the officers make reports about their activities and areas of responsibility. The next part of the meeting usually includes:
- Show and Tell, where members share gadgets, books, techniques, etc.
- The Observing Report, describing the astronomical events for the next month.
- Q&A, where beginning astronomers are encouraged to ask questions to be answered by more experienced members.
- The Sky Tour, describing what’s where in the sky for the next month.
The final part of the meeting is a program, usually by one of the members, but sometimes by “outside experts”. We’ve had presenters from all aspects of Astronomy. Here is a listing of upcoming speakers, a listing of past speakers, their lecture topics, and copies of slideshow presentations and video coverage where available.
There’s a good deal of socializing before and after meetings, allowing members to put faces with the voices they’ve heard in the dark.
Whether you’re an longtime club member, a new or prospective club member, or simply an interested member of the public, you’ll be warmly welcomed at our meetings.
Please Join Us For Dinner!
Meeting attendees (and their guests) are invited to come out for our informal pre-meeting dinner. The pre-meeting dinner will be held at Red Hot and Blue located at 4150 Chain Bridge Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030 at 5:30 p.m. The pre-meeting dinner is an excellent way to meet club members, welcome newcomers, and renew old friendships.
If you’d like to join us, stop by the restaurant at 5:30 PM. See you there!
PARKING is available at the Shenandoah parking deck (enter via Sandy Creek Way) for $3/hr, up to a daily maximum of $14. Though the club recommends the use of the paid parking deck, we’ve also had members report success parking in Lot A (a permit-only lot also associated with the Patriot Center) without trouble on Sunday evenings (tickets are $85, however, so assess your own risk tolerance before considering this option).