Last month the first ever spectroscopy workshop was held in the US! It happened to be right across the street from my remote observatory at one of our good friends house. The first Sacramento Mountains Spectroscopy Bootcamp was hosted by Joe Daglen and Ken Hudson, 2 avid amateur spectroscopists. Now I do have a degree in astronomy so while I do have a passion for deep space imaging, it isn’t always about the nice pictures!
The amazing fact to realize is that most of what we know about the large scale structure of the universe, about how stars work, about how stars live and die and I would say most of the physical properties of the universe in general, is made possible by the analysis of light from distant objects using devices called spectrographs, similar to what you did in 3rd grade when you held up a prism in front of a light source and marveled at the colors of the spectrum. Spectroscopy is an extremely captivating facet of astronomy, very popular in Europe. Not so much here in the US…yet, but having meetings such as this will certainly go a long way toward getting more amateurs involved. The details are of course well beyond the scope of a single blog entry, but I invite you to read this introductory “primer” I wrote for Reflector Magazine 3 years ago.
The first ever Sacramento Mountains Spectroscopy Workshop was a great success! An all star faculty made the trip up there including Francois Cochard, founder of Shelyak Instruments, the main amateur source of numerous spectrographs including the high resolution LhiresIII. There were a couple of professional astronomers and also an appearance by Stella Kafka, PhD, director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. Currently the AAVSO is mostly involved with photometry but wants to become involved much more in spectroscopy and is assembling a variable star spectral data base. We had the opportunity to learn how to collect spectra using the high resolution spectrograph and how to process the spectral data. The astronomers who attended gave some fascinating talks on unusual stars, called Be (Type B spectral class with emission properties). These are stars that have orbiting shells of gas surrounding them that produce emission type spectra, rather than absorption (see the PDF primer above!). At any rate the meeting energized me to get my own equipment up and running here in Las Cruces (stay tuned for more on that!) We are all looking forward to SMSW-2 hopefully next year!
Well stay tuned for more spectroscopy coming up soon!
Thanks for reading!