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Oct 04

Successful Third Drift Test at the Observatory

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - September 28, 2019 at 9:30 PM Last night MMAO Astronomy Ambassadors Zacharia Mjungu and Pendael Nassary were successful in conducting a third drift test, this time noting all parameters to make certain we can effectively interpret the results and align the telescope more accurately. In short summary, they selected a star almost directly overhead, which at MMAO is close to the celestial equator. They rotate the reticle eyepiece such that when slewing the telescope East and West the star tracked parallel to one of the two cross hairs. They then centered the star and with the RA...

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Aug 22

Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory Gets a New Floor

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 16, 2019 at 10:14 PM Yesterday was ... challenging. We emptied the entire observatory, including removal of the telescope from the Dec arm to make way for the sanding and washing of the terrazzo floor. The original contractor failed to apply the correct seal, using wax instead of polyurethane or epoxy. Over the past three weeks, the wax has collected dirt to the point of being impossible to remove. While this was happening, I set up shop on a table outside and rebuilt a 5" reflector, removing and cleaning, then collimating both mirrors. When I learned... Read More...

Aug 16

Group Focused on RA Gearbox and CCD Camera

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 15, 2019 at 9:57 AM Today was a slow day focused on just two objectives: getting the RA gearbox to chatter lessus and learning to use the CCD camera software. We have known that the RA gearbox "chatters" quite a bit, the sound of the meshing of the teeth of the stepper motor axle gear to one of the two former planetary gear boxes (the planetary function reduced to a simple rotation). When I loosened the mounting bolts and manually hold the drive gear, it was perfectly quiet. What's more, the RA axle gear has two... Read More...

Aug 16

Today: Observatory is Truly Operational

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 14, 2019 at 1:26 PM While I was in town, all five astronomy ambassadors Eliona, Elineema, Eliatosha, Zacharia, and Pendaeli dove into a book of Messier deep sky objects, making a list of those we should be able to see from our location at 3.25 degrees south of the equator. They then prepared a whiteboard sketch of the Earth to determine the most likely maximum view of the night sky, in order to give bounds to their continued Messier object search. We also installed a DC power switch and cabling to the 12V car battery that... Read More...

Aug 16

Problem Solved! But Fixing Not So Easy

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 14, 2019 at 1:11 PM Today we discovered the reason why we have play ("slop") in the RA axis. The friction clutch has four through-holes that pass four bolts from the outer most plate through the large RA gear and to a fixed back plane attached to the RA armature. Springs provide the tension. The through-holes are a bit too large. So when RA motion is engaged, <1mm on the plate translates to ~5mm travel at the telescope before a solid connection is made. While this does not affect the guided function of the RA motor,... Read More...

Aug 16

Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory is Coming Together and Looking Smart!

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 14, 2019 at 1:04 AM Yesterday saw the attachment of new red carpet to the top of the two mobile work benches (built from the shipping crates) and the "carpeting" of the computer workstation too. The observatory is really coming together looking so smart! with intent to seal the floor this weekend with an epoxy finish. View Kai's Facebook page here . Read More...

Aug 16

Movie Night at Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory!

AWB Update - August 14, 2019 at 1:03 AM Movie night at the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory! We are watching the COSMOS series with Neil deGrasse Tyson. For the first episode we enjoyed the company of four Ambassadors to the observatory and a dozen students, all but one girls. Last night, we had standing room only with more than sixty students in the Observatory. It was awesome! The first episode tells the story of Bruno, a priest who conceived of a universe far larger than that accepted in his time. He shared his vision for the Sun at the center... Read More...

Aug 14

The Quest to Seek Polar North Continues

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 12, 2019 at 11:55 PM With my family Lindah and her son Liam, Bernard and Truphena again in their home in Nairobi Kenya, I returned my focus to the setting the telescope in its final position. I was joined by Telescopes to Tanzania Ambassadors Eliatosha, Elineema, Eliona, Pendaeli, and Zacharia, and Ailanga students David and for this effort. While we had three times before attempted to find polar north using "high noon" and the shortest shadow of the sun as defined by this website ( https://heavens-above.com/ ), we feel it is important to obtain this... Read More...

Aug 14

Work Continues on the Telescope's Alignment

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 10, 2019 at 1:04 PM Not much to report this past two days, as I was mostly away from the observatory spending time with my visiting daughter and son from Kenya. We got the TV and whiteboard hung and disassembled the telescope again to perform what we hope to be the final high-noon drop shadow test to determine polar north and south. With this, we will align the base of the telescope, set the bolts once and for all, and then make fine adjustments with the head. But alas, no sun at noon for several days.... Read More...

Aug 14

Students Show Much Promise

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 8, 2019 at 12:21 AM Yesterday saw a multitude of tasks. I worked with students to mark the spots on the wall West wall where the new TV and white board will be mounted. Another group working with Ambassador Eliatosha disassembled an AWB Galileo reflector telescope, cleaned the primary and secondary mirrors, and reassembled it fully while another, in parallel, cleaned and rebuilt a Celestron refractor. It is imperative to take note that none of these students have ever done anything like this before, most having never used a hex wrench or screwdriver. Without instruction, without... Read More...

Aug 13

Mr. Miley's Class Visits the Observatory

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 6, 2019 at 11:23 PM Last night Mr. Miley and his Form Four class of the Ngongongare Secondary School visited the observatory. Following Miley's introduction the observatory and the use of a telescope, I provided a lecture for the 3 axes of the equatorial telescope and the function of the concave and convex mirrors in our primary telescope. I asked the students to calculate the rotational velocity of the Earth, given its circumference and then we moved into conversations about why we cannot feel the Earth spinning as compared to that of, say, riding on a... Read More...

Aug 12

More Students, More Telescopes, More Observatations

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 5, 2019 at 10:45 PM Last night we engaged our second observing session at the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory, from 7-10 pm. Again, we enjoyed a full house, with what was easily 60 or more students. This time both boys and girls from the Ailanga secondary school (and the boys were clearly more well behaved :) We introduced three additional telescopes, two mounted on a table, one on a tripod. With these, the students engaged in their own exploration of the night sky overhead. First, we observed the Moon as we had Saturday night. After everyone... Read More...

Aug 12

The Telescope's First View: The Moon!

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 3, 2019 at 3:16 PM We saw first light! Today was a whirlwind of activity, with more than 40 students actively engaged at the observatory from shortly after noon 'till well after 10 pm. I juggled management of a half dozen projects, all perfectly executed by the students and two of our ambassadors-teachers. Today we got the drive motors mounted and the cables attached to the base after thorough testing of all possible directions the telescope moves. One student group built the cap for the telescope tube from the high density, shipping crate foam while another... Read More...

Aug 10

Girls Shine at Nigeria-Astronomers Without Borders Astronomy Camp

by Jessica Santascoy Community Engagement Manager, Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) Imagine you are a 10-year old female and you love looking at the sky. You want to learn more - what is the Sun made of, what is a spiral galaxy? You find information on YouTube, at the library, anywhere you can find it. You tell your teacher you want to learn more, but you notice the teacher ignores you. Boys get more attention when they talk about science! You feel sad, frustrated, and wonder if you should give up. Girls across the world feel this frustration when they can't... Read More...

Aug 09

Kai Works on Balancing the Telescope

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 2, 2019 at 11:53 AM Today Eliona and I spent from 10 am until after 3 pm with a delegation from the US ( https://www.schoolandcollegelistings.com/…/Ailanga-School-P… ), learning about their programs and history with the school, and sharing our own experience in the development of the observatory. From 4-6 we worked with Zacharia and a number of students to balance the telescope before applying the motors. We were confused as to the behavior of the telescope at various angles, but with some diagrams on the white board we recognized that the center of gravity is not symmetrical... Read More...

Aug 08

The Telescopes to Tanzania Story

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 2, 2019 at 10:49 AM In the summer of 2010 Sue and Chuck Ruehle traveled from Wisconsin to Northern Tanzania, and brought with them three 50mm Galileoscopes. Traveling and living between six and eight thousand feet they stayed in the villages of Mulala, Kilinga, and Kyuta. From this location on the side of Mt. Meru (4,566 meters) they enjoyed viewing the dark skies, they also visited Ngarenanyuki and Songoro secondary schools, sharing their passion for astronomy. These two schools and the Mulala community each received a telescope and tripod, two modern eyepieces, and other astronomy materials.... Read More...

Aug 08

Kai Provides Learning Opportunities

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 1, 2019 at 2:29 PM Today we opened the first of a number of posters (one of which is over 30 feet long, a print from ASU SESE of a crater on the Moon). Several Ailanga students who come by each day and help, ask questions, and engage were today looking at the map of the Moon. I explained how false color imaging is used to depict elevation, and asked them to determine, based upon their understanding of geology on Earth which areas were high and which were low. Then, we continued our investigation of concave... Read More...

Aug 07

Spotting Scope Is Installed Today

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 1, 2019 at 1:57 PM Today saw the installation of the new Orion spotting scope, declination collar and counter weight, and finally, after 12 days, what we hope is the final placement of the tube assembly onto the mount. The spotting scope gave us some trouble as I had purchased it after the telescope had shipped, so none of the existing mounting holes fit. We had only a hand drill with very sloppy settings, so there was no way that would work. Eliona jumped on his motor cycle and drove to four local repair shops while... Read More...

Aug 07

Welcome to Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 1, 2019 at 1:44 PM This is the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory with the massive roof rolled off. Truly, a very unique architecture. View Kai's Facebook page here . Read More...

Aug 07

Collimation Problem Found and Solved

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - August 1, 2019 at 1:38 PM Two days ago we completed the collimation of the telescope. While we thought this was completed two days prior, closer inspection showed that the central image was egg shaped, an "oblique obstruction" as Dan Heim called it. Turns out that the image projected on the wall when a headlamp was strapped to the eye piece mount was different than the image we saw when receiving light in the same position. This baffled us, as we assumed the reflective geometry was totally reversible. Then I noticed that I was tending to lean... Read More...

Aug 04

The Telescope is Collimated!

by Kai Staats

AWB Update - July 30, 2019 at 1:11 PM The telescope is collimated! This was no easy endeavor, but finally, the mirrors are aligned. Photos and a deeper explanation to come. Also, today saw the second face-to-face meeting of the local Astronomy Ambassadors for the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory. View Kai's Facebook page here . Read More...