Portable CCD Cameras for Introductory Astronomy Lab:The First Year

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Session 94 -- Education/Demonstrations
Oral presentation, Friday, January 14, 10:15-11:45, Salons A/B Room (Crystal City Marriott)

[94.06] Portable CCD Cameras for Introductory Astronomy Lab:The First Year

D.Meisel, D.Showers, M. Lang, B.Emerling, M.Greenfield, W. Abe, D. Lane (SUNY-GENESEO)

Thirteen portable (battery-operated) CCD camera units have been assembled from commercially available equipment. Each kit consists of a Macintosh Powerbook 145, an SBIG ST-4 CCD array with 8mm f/1.8 TV lens, and camera tripod packed into photographic "suitcases" that students borrow and take outside. Unguided exposures of 50 seconds or less are all that are required to obtain useful images of the moon, planets, the Milky Way, the Andromeda galaxy, and stars (to roughly 5th magnitude in the red) directly from the exasperatingly bright SUNY-Geneseo campus. In addition to unfiltered images, these cameras were also able to take filtered images and low dispersion grating spectra. The images were successfully processed and reduced by the students themselves using a special version of the well-known MAC shareware program MAIA written by Tim DeBenedictis. In the fall of 1993, approximately 130 undergraduate students working in pairs were able to obtain up to 14 images with each camera during two one-hour periods. Images of fields containing bright variable stars were used by the students to prepare short "research" reports for oral presentation. Student reaction was, without exception, enthusiastic despite the usual bouts of astronomical reality ...poor weather, moonlight, and equipment failures. This work is supported by NSF ILI Grant USE9250493 and grants from SUNY-Geneseo.

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