Tag Archives: Telescope

The Victor Blanco 4-Meter Telescope

June 15, 2016, Cerro Tololo

Today started very early!  We wanted to see the sunrise so we had to get up and hike up to the telescopes to before the sun came up.  It was worth the crazy hike!


M. F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

After breakfast we had a tour of the telescopes at Cerro Tololo.  Of course, there is the Victor Blanco 4 meter telescope that is the Southern Hemisphere twin to the one at Kitt Peak, but there are also quite a few other smaller telescopes here.  They call this the “mushroom farm”.


M. F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

These telescopes are run by everyone from Google to the Korean government to the University of Massachusetts.

However, the Blanco was the coolest of them all!  It was really neat to be standing next to the telescope that proved dark energy exists.

Here is the dark energy camera (DECam).


M. F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

Below is the primary mirror, which measures 4 meters across.  This may not be as big as Gemini, but it’s still impressive.  I was standing about 25 feet in front of it to give some perspective.


M. F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

Finally, here’s the other end of the Blanco.   All of the little rectangles on the near end are part of the COSMOS infrared camera.


M. F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

After all that were treated to a spectacular sunset!


M. F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

And it just kept getting better…


M. F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

When we turned around, we had this view of the moon over the Andes.


M. F. Peterson (ACEAP/NSF)

Written By: Michelle Ferrara Peterson

Observing the Opposition of Jupiter


Jupiter is one of the marvels in our solar system. Appropriately named after Zeus, it has a tremendous mass. In fact, it  outweighs the rest of the planets of the solar system by a factor of two–and it knows how to throw its weight around! Its gravity holds 67 confirmed moons in orbit, including the largest four moons first discovered by Galileo known as the Galilean moons.

It also spins with incredible speed. Despite being large enough to hold 1300 Earths inside, it completes its daily rotation in only 10 hours! This means that at the equator, it is moving at 28000 miles per hour! Slight deviations from this speed cause its atmosphere contains incredible bands of clouds of different colors, including the famous Great Red Spot, a hurricane-like storm several times the size of Earth where two of these bands meet that has been raging on for at least 300 years!

Due to its larger orbit, Jupiter takes just shy of 12 years to go around the sun. This means that once every 13 months it forms a line with Earth and the Sun. With Earth squarely in the middle, the Sun and Jupiter are on opposite sides. This means that Jupiter is up while the sun is down. It is also the closest that the two planets get in their respective orbits. This year, it happens on February 6th and due to the shape of each planets’ orbit, it is the closest they will be until 2019! This arrangement is known as “Opposition”. Thirteen months later they will be back in opposition, so if you miss it, check back on March 8, 2016!

Due to the closeness of the two planets and the fact that Jupiter is up during the middle of the night during the time of greatest darkness, this is a great time to look at Jupiter. In fact, on a very dark night it is actually possible for the light from Jupiter to cast a shadow! With the 12” telescopes that we have at camp, we have a pretty big advantage over Galileo. His improved telescope in 1610 had a magnification of about 20x. The 12” telescopes are around 100x, allowing us to not only pick out its four Galilean moons, but also make out two reddish bands in Jupiter’s atmosphere, known as the North and South equatorial belts! It is truly an amazing sight.



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