Jrseti talk cedar amateur astronomers

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Jon Richards SETI Talk at the Palisades-Dows Observatory

Jon Richards (aka User:Jrseti) gave a talk at the Palisades-Dows Observatory July 24th

I gave a talk at the Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center at the Palisades-Dows Observatory. This unique facility is located on a gravel road several miles outside Mount Vernon, Iowa, home of Cornell College.

See http://www.cedar-astronomers.org/ for more details on this wonderful facility.

The Tour

I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I showed up. This is quite a professional organization and a great facility. I had driven by the exit to the observatory probably 100 times, each time wondering what a observatory was doing in Mount Vernon. I'm glad I finally got to see what was going on.

John Leeson was there to meet me and gave me a private tour.

John Leeson

Sunrise photo from their website

From the above picture you can see they have 3 domes. The largest one houses they pride-and-joy telescope, a 24-inch Boller & Chivens telescope donated to them by the University of Iowa. This telescope originally operated at The University of Iowa’s Hills Observatory for over 30 years and donated to the Cedar Amateur Astronomers. It has an estimated value of over $250k.


My photo of this wonderful beast

I tried to take a good pic of the dials

The telescope is positioned by adjusting Ra and Dec dials. The telescope then tracks the Ra/Dec location automatically. In the night time these dials illuminated an eerie red. Very cool.

A lot of people were viewing objects through the view finder. I saw M11 and M13 star clusters. (I think I got that right).

They have a shed-like building that houses a bunch of smaller (but larger than the average person would have at home) telescopes.

See the roof that slides to expose the telescopes. A poor-man's dome!

Telescopes lying around in the shed...

...and more lying around

Off to the side they have an area for people to bring their own telescopes. One man had quite a large telescope. Just when the sun went down the sky cleared. Through his telescope he showed me quite a clear star cluster. He told me he is going to build a small dome for this telescope on top of his garage at home. His wife is all for it.

Saw a star cluster with this telescope!

Meridian Transit

In a glass case they had a Meridian Transit:


The story goes that this meridian transit was used to keep the official time in Iowa up till the 1960s!

My Talk

The talk I gave was very well received. There were about 60 attendees. They all seemed to be very educated about astronomy and were familiar with SETI and the SETI mission. This organization has a very high quality community educational outreach. There is no excuse for anyone in Mount Vernon not being an astronomy expert.

Quite a few people came up to me after the talk to discuss things further.

I want to thank the Cedar Amateur Astronomers for allowing be to talk and showing me around their great facility. Next time I am in the area I'll see if they want another SETI talk.



The Program

Is there other life in the Universe? SETI is the acronym for “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence”. People have wondered about life beyond Earth and are naturally drawn to what SETI has to say about the search for life in the Universe.

Jon Richards is a native of Eastern Iowa, he grew up in Dyersville. He now lives in California and works for Jill Tarter at The SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and at the Allen Telescope Array in Northern California.

The SETI mission is to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the Universe. The Allen Telescope Array is our antenna. What does this mean for humankind? It means that if another civilization is transmitting radio signals in our direction, we will be listening.

Ata panorama.jpeg
The Allen Telescope Array

Jon will be covering the following topics:

Jon will be showing pictures of the ATA as well as interesting astronomy pictures you may have not seen before.


What the heck is this? Jon will explain.

Is this a signal from ET?

Learn more

If you wish to learn more about SETI, the ATA, and the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, follow these links:

The SETI Institute in located in Mountain View, California. Near NASA Ames and Google.




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