Megnaritaville hosts UCR redshift lab

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On January 24th, 2009, Megnaritaville Observatory hosted students from the University of California, Riverside, participating in a lab to measure the redshift of distant galaxies and quasars.

Professor Jim Buchholz, along with Emil Rudobeck and Jarred Roberts, used an SBIG Deep Space spectrograph and an ST-7 CCD camera attached to the 14-inch LX200R "PopeScope" to capture spectra from objects that were as faint as 14th magnitude and 3.5 billion - that's right, billion - light years away.

Although the camera and spectrograph were run by a Windows laptop, telescope command and guiding were handled by the observatory's iMac using TheSkyX SAE and PHD Guiding. This was the first opportunity to use TheSkyX and a previously generated TPoint model to do telescope pointing during an imaging session, and we were very pleased with the system's accuracy.

Guiding was accomplished using the WO 80mm FD with the Starfish guider with a 2.4x barlow.

Thanks to arrangements made by RAS Trustee Mark Rader, this is the second time Megnaritaville has been used for UCR's redshift lab.

For more on spectroscopy at Megnaritaville, go here.

The scene inside Megnaritaville during the redshift lab

Raw spectra from Markarian 421, a 13.3 mag blazar in Ursa Major

In the visible light image of Mrk 421 (above), you can see a gas jet pointed away from the galaxy (to the left in this image); this object is approximately 400 million light years away.

Quasar OJ287 (at left) is, at 3.5 billion light years, the most distant object ever imaged from Megnaritaville. OJ287 is believed to be a binary quasar and has been the subject of intense study due to its periodic changes in brightness.