Physics and Technology Department faculty photograph Swan Nebula using cutting-edge telescope



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          Edinboro University’s Celestron Edge HD telescope is making good on its promise of offering faculty in the Joseph T. Buba Department of Physics and Technology a scientific tool capable of engaging in mainstream astronomical research.

          EU faculty recently utilized the state-of-the-art equipment, which was installed in the observatory in Cooper Hall nearly two years ago, to capture images of Messier 17, better known as the Swan Nebula, an H II region in the constellation Sagittarius (pictured).

          “The Swan Nebula is a huge cloud of gas and dust and is currently an active star forming region, which makes it an attractive target for imagers like us,” said Dr. Richard Lloyd, chair of the Department of Physics and Technology. “It has enough mass to make about 30,000 stars the size of our sun and is located about 5,000 light years away.”

          The telescope is equipped with a 14-inch diameter optical tube, and has the ability to lock on and automatically track objects for long exposures, allowing observers to see very faint, distant objects; produce high-quality images of stars, planets, nebulae, galaxies, comets and more with its charge-coupled device (CCD) camera; capture high-resolution light spectra from objects, permitting identification of their chemical composition and velocities through space using a high-resolution spectrograph; be remotely controlled from a distant site; and use GPS tracking to view any named stars and planets.

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          While it has principally been used by faculty since its installation, Dr. Lloyd notes that the Department is currently training students to use the device.

          “Just this past week, we trained several students to take images for the first time ever,” he said. “We had a dozen students up there and about half of them operated the observatory under supervision to image several targets.”

          Dr. Lloyd encourages students, regardless of major, who are interested in space to get involved with the University’s Physics and Astronomy Club.

          “Our Physics and Astronomy Club members are regularly invited to attend [faculty’s] imaging sessions,” he added. “I would stress that you don't have to be a science geek to be in the club. We have art and sociology majors, for example. We love art majors since they can help with image processing and have an artistic sense that would be helpful to the imaging projects. All students will have opportunity to take images if they attend observatory sessions regularly.”

          In addition to its work with the Celestron Edge HD, the Department recently acquired a solar telescope and shot its first images of the sun, which showed several solar prominences and some sunspots. Dr. Lloyd expects the new telescope will prove a more popular option for use in the classroom since it can be used during the daytime.

          For more information on the Joseph T. Buba Department of Physics and Technology at EU, click here.