Midweek at Launchpad
Wednesday started with a hike in a nearby national park. Very cool big rocks, which look as if they were carefully set into place by giants, some rather precariously:
It was a surprisingly lush place, with aspen and junipers (I think) and various evergreens, and at least one beaver dam. Here's another shot:
We hiked for an hour or two, which tested our adaptation to the 7000+ ft. elevation of the Laramie area.
The only time I really noticed the altitude was when a few of us ran, briefly, toward the end of the hike. Then, as I bent over gasping, I wondered why I had done that.
More astronomy during the day: stars and stellar evolution. In the evening we went onto the roof of the astronomy building and did some star-gazing. At home I have a small Meade telescope; here I found its much bigger brothers, a 10 inch reflector and a 16 inch reflector. Plus, Mike had night-vision goggles, which were surprisingly effective at helping us pick out star patterns that were hard to spot with the city lights and scattered clouds. Besides the Moon and Venus and Jupiter, we took in the Ring Nebula and a fuzzy image of the Andromeda Galaxy (which I had never seen in a scope before).
Thursday brought us more on stellar evolution, a visit to the small but charming planetarium in the same building (after looking at star patterns awhile, we watched some laser light shows). Then we learned a bit about the processing of raw astronomical data, and talked about using what we were learning in our writing (which, after all, is the purpose behind this workshop).
Finally we visited the somewhat larger Red Buttes Observatory outside the city. Conditions didn't allow for opening the dome and viewing, but we got a tour of the telescope:
Then we just stood outside awhile, as the clouds cleared some, and enjoyed the dark sky and partial view of the Milky Way.
We're learning a lot, and we're enjoying a fine group camaraderie; it's hard to believe the week is nearly over.
"Truth is a matter of the imagination." —Ursula K. LeGuin