Discovery Corps Teens Visit Manastash Ridge Observatory

By Paula Bock | Dec. 17, 2015

Notes From The Field

Discovery Corps Teens Visit Manastash Ridge Observatory

Here are observations from Discovery Corps teens who took a road trip to the telescope at Manastash Ridge Observatory, an astronomical research facility in eastern Washington.

Monica H. writes: The Manastash Ridge Observatory Trip was a really fun and new experience for me. I got closer to fellow Discovery Corps members while on the Trip. The long car rides were actually fun because I got to talk to everyone and see the views of Ellensburg. It was my first time seeing a desert and an actual observatory. I was grateful I got to get out of the city of Seattle that weekend because I usually do not get the opportunity to do that.

I was always interested in learning about space and the stars and now I finally got to see how astronomers study and work in an observatory. I learned how the positions of mirrors and lens of a telescope heavily affect how an astronomer looks from their telescope. I also learned how astronomers use their technology as a tool to view the stars.

Astronomers are constantly logging in information, taking pictures of stars, and checking the positions of their telescope. The Discovery Corps members and I stayed up all night working on finding the stars we chose with the telescope. Many UW undergraduates helped us along the way. We had burritos for dinner and played an awesome game of Cards of Humanity.

The pictures of the stars Team Luna found were amazingly beautiful. Before going on the trip, I had no idea I would be able to take pictures of stars of a galaxy with a telescope. The trip also influenced myself to become more interested in science. Thank you Josh and Portia for making this trip possible.

Wesley G. writes: When we arrived at the observatory on September 26th we got there somewhat tired but very curious as to what we would be doing when we actually got to the telescope. We got a tour of the observatory from all of the UW people who accompanied us, and started unloading all of our stuff.

I remember when Josh first opened the back doors of the van and I looked inside I was shocked at the amount of candy and treats they had brought to the observatory. When I questioned Portia about this she responded stating that we needed a lot of energy snacks to get through the long night ahead of us.

The next thing we did was set up tents just outside of the Manastash Ridge Observatory; while doing this someone got the “brilliant idea” of sleeping under the stars on this trip. Josh told us we still had to set up tents, just in case.

When we finished setting up the tents Portia numbered us off and split us up into groups where we did some workshops . . .

Portia asked us to write out where we lived. We started with our address then went to country, then earth, then solar system, the galaxy, then local group, then cluster, and supercluster, the universe. The whole experience made you feel very small. . .

By time the burritos were devoured by the many hungry teenagers present it was starting to get dark. The undergrads got to work right away calibrating the telescope so it knew where to look when you gave it commands to look at a specific object. After they finished this the first group of three started to take their exposure shots of the many globular clusters and galaxies. In the meantime we listened to AC/DC and talked.

When it was my group’s (the Space Monkeys) time to start taking shots we all shuffled into the control room. I started out on the computer that controlled the camera. This computer determined what the observer was looking at and how long exposure shots were taken at. I think I liked this position the best because it had the least amount of work while still feeling like you were contributing. We took a few 30 second shots to make sure we were looking at an object then we started the two-minute shot. During this time we noticed that the telescope was moving a lot more than it should have so we had to stop and recalibrate it. This happened probably four more times, which is really annoying when you’re doing a 10-minute exposure and realize that you need to restart. The other positions were recording and logging photos, and inputting where the telescope should be.

Somewhere in the night during one of the exposures, I, in my sleep-induced state (it was about 1:30 in the morning and I had woken up at 5 that morning), took a dare to stay up with the other group. So I did just that. I helped out with moving the dome and listening for changes in the filter, but mostly I was half asleep and acting weird. We finished up at around 4:30 in the morning and I decided to sleep under the stars (my decision-making skills were impaired by lack of sleep and Twix). It was 30 degrees and a wonderful rest of the night.

Overall it was a really amazing trip and I feel that I learned so much about what it is an astronomer does and goes through to get the data they need. I am really glad I went.

Discovery Corps is a youth development program that inspires a lifelong interest in science, technology, engineering, math and education. The program empowers diverse youth through Pacific Science Center’s career ladder while fostering growth as global citizens in a supportive interactive environment.

Discovery Corps is made possible with generous support from: Anonymous, Bank of America, Paul and Debbi Brainerd, Glaser Foundation, Richard and Marilyn Hanson, Intellectual Ventures, Mary Ann Wiley Fund, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (grant award numbers NNX10AK17G and NNX14AD03G), and US Bancorp Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.