01 August 2010

Exploratorium & Galilieoscope

Yesterday Urmi and I went to the Exploratorium in downtown San Francisco. Being both science inclined folks, we're both suckers for science museums (even the ones which are aimed primarily at kids) and the Exploratorium was no exception. Unlike many of the science museums I've been to, the Exploratorium is mainly a hands-on sort of place. They have exhibits demonstrating pendulums, echos, optical illusions (including on that gives you the illusion of being in a rotating barrel), and all manner of scientific principles. My personal favorite was one demonstrating the Curie Point, a temperature at which a ferromagnetic material becomes paramagnetic and loses its ability to be attracted to magnets. The Exploratorium is also set in a gorgeous location, with a lake (full of ducks, swans, etc) and small park. I took plenty of pictures, which are available on my picasa account.

While there, I picked up a Galileoscope, which is a cheap, low-powered, DIY telescope based on the same model that Galileo used to observe Jupiter, the moon, Venus, and Saturn. In its default configuration, it's a 25x zoom telescope, good enough to make out a lot of detail on the moon, see the moons of Jupiter, and more. The telescope also comes with a Barlow Lens attachment, which doubles the 25x zoom. I haven't quite made this Barlow lens attachment work, but I used the default configuration last night to view several stars (sorry, no clue which ones -- I used whatever I could see from our apartment) and the moon. I took some great (if slightly blurry) shots of the moon as well. My best is below.

Clearly visible are several impact craters and maria, as well as Copernicus crater. This was taken about a halfhour after moonrise, so the moon really was this color. I took this using the highly scientific method of sticking my camera up against the telescope and snapping pictures. I don't recommend this -- it was very hard to get shots in focus, and if I bumped into the telescope, all bets were off.

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