Moons of Saturn

It might appear to the casual reader that we’ve been inactive here at the KCL telescope over the past few months.  This is not true, we had a very successful project with UG students over the Spring where they did lots of image processing coding and some fixes to make the dome rotation more stable.  And we’ve had trips to to the roof for UG students, maybe I’ll post some images of those.

More interestingly, this summer I have taken on two students Alexandra Tofful and James Davies who are very good, and they are doing a nice astrophysics project related to dark matter I hope to tell you about later in the summer.  But they have also been helping with the telescope, mainly in the difficult business of getting the auto-tracking working.  When we had no more hair to pull out (didn’t take long in my case) we looked for more fun things to do.  So here is a composite image of the moons of saturn


“Composite” sounds like cheating and it is really, but its only two images on top of each other, a really short exposure to get saturn and a really long exposure (450 times longer) where saturn is massively over-exposed to get the moons.  We got four tonight, Tethys, Rhea and Dione which are all quite small (about a hundreth the mass of the moon) and frankly not very  very interesting unless you are very into these things.  However we also got the mighty Titan – TWICE the mass of the moon with a thick atmosphere and hydrocarbon seas and a possible location of life outside the Earth.

I hope to have more fun/cool pictures soon but if there aren’t, rest assured we are messing around with dodgy USB connections and remote telescope control and trying to find guide stars amongst the terrible London pollution etc.