The Bucket List Astronomy Tour (BLAsT) Class continues for 10 Sam Houston State University students and their two professors, Dr. Scott Miller and Dr. C Renee James. And although the class gets to visit fantastic astronomical sites (and are hopefully inspired by what they see), they still have work to do. James and two students provide an update of their activities, including some time under the night sky at Lowell Observatory.
The day before (May 23), though, was another fun day for the students as they visited Lowell Observatory in Arizona, famous as the place where Percival Lowell recorded “canals” on Mars but also the spot where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. Laura Durham and Ernesto DelBosque provide their reflections of the tour.
Another weird thing that I thought was cool was that Percival Lowell is buried right on the Lowell Observatory property next to one of the giant telescopes. It's kind of freaky to think about it, but cool at the same time.
Ernesto DelBosque’s reflections on Lowell ObservatoryOnce the crowd died down around the telescopes, we started requesting galaxies and clusters of stars. First, Dr. Miller requested the great globular cluster in Hercules, M13. Once the telescope was focused on M13, a dandelion-puff of stars was instantly visible. Even though there are 300,000 stars in the cluster, it looks like a tiny fuzzy ball because M13 is 25,000 light-years away. After that amazing cluster, we looked at the galaxies M81 and M82 in Ursa Major, each of which is about 12 million light-years away. I thought it was amazing that both are visible at the same time out of the same telescope's eyepiece.
After viewing these few sights, I finally realize how small we are in the massive size of our universe. I would love to do this again and look at more stars and galaxies — I have to say, this is one of the coolest things I've ever done.