In Search of Pluto

A tale from over fifty years ago!

Using this 10″ (255mm) reflector telescope, and a simplistic chart published in Sky and Telescope magazine, I would try to confirm seeing Pluto, …a difficult star-like pinpoint at the edge of visibility. Observing from my suburban town only twenty miles (32 km) N.W. from the brightness of New York City, proved challenging.

A second observation from a considerably darker location was planned as Pluto would have slightly changed position amongst the same stars. But it didn’t happen as unfavorable weather conditions persisted for several weeks.

ABOVE: As seen in the eyepiece, …a rough drawing of visible stars in the area of where I believed Pluto was located. The arrows, particularly “G,” indicated possible candidates. I estimated magnitude 14, (the published approximate magnitude, or brightness of Pluto,) was about the faintest I could see at the time.
ABOVE: Compare the sketch to this same very small area in the constellation Leo, as shown from “Google Sky,” a searchable photographic atlas available free on-line, and certainly not available back then!

Did I see Pluto? Maybe, or maybe not. I recently concluded there was not sufficient evidence for me to comfortably confirm a sighting.  But re-visiting this event from an “armchair viewpoint” so many years later, was …an interesting way to pass the time during this pandemic year.

Special thanks to “Cosmic Focus,” an advanced amateur astronomer/imager from Australia, for providing the incentive to re-visit this quest, …and guiding me to to the current charting resources available today. His wonderful captures of Pluto and a keyway to a remarkable WordPress site can be found here or https://cosmicfocus.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/pluto-the-previous-planet.

Thanks also for viewing. Comments are always welcome, and you can zoom in for a closer look. M 🙂

Glen Campbell, a Horn Antenna, a 100 ft. Balloon and The BIG Bang…All Here, All There

In Homdel, New  Jersey, less than a mile (~one km) from the often ear splitting outdoor concerts of the Garden State (PNC) Arts Center, sits this odd looking contraption designed and built by Bell Labs, the historic and  prestigious research arm of AT&T. Jeanne and I visited this recently.

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…Known as a “horn” antenna, here facing down for storage, this large (for its day) 15 meter (50 ft.) sheet metal radio telescope was specifically built to bounce and receive radio signals off early satellite experiments using  the 100 ft. diameter Echo I Satellite Balloon, launched August 12, 1960.

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(On March 14, 1963, I took this 25 minute guided photo showing the Echo I satellite, as a wavering-bright “star trail” due to it’s slight deflation, passing overhead from the then dark skies of Bayville New Jersey.)

1963.03.14 001 4 AM 25 min, Bayville, Echo Sat

But what really ensured the telescope’s place in history was the work of Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, who in 1964 could not explain a mysterious background “noise” being picked up by the ultra sensitive cryogenic microwave receiver.

They systematically tried to eliminate any terrrestrial sources. No difference was detected when pointed generally toward New York City for example. Bird droppings, thought to be creating some sort of electrostatic interference, were cleaned from the horn, to no avail. Perhaps if the Arts Center were already there, with its 10,000 patrons and concerts, it too would have been suspected. (Although Jeanne and I would see Glen Cambell perform there four years later, Engene Ormandy (music of “Star Wars”)  was also one of the early classical performers!)

11.100 7-4-69 Holmdel, Garden State Arts Center, Glenn Cambell_edited-1

But, after conferring with Robert Dicke, a particle physicist  at nearby Princeton University – and familiar with the theoretical, but never before detected “background radiation” components of the Big Bang Theory of cosmological evolution, the source of the mysterious  “static” was eventually verified and now the keystone for the theory’s acceptance.

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The telescope is located in a semi-wooded area on Telegraph Hill in Homdel, NJ, on  the private property of Alcatel-Lucent Technologys, and not readily accessible without special permission.

As usual, thanks for viewing, and comments are always welcome. M:-)

(Thanks to Wikipedia for their indispensable resources. Please consider contributing via their site.)