One of the best experiences I have had since I have gotten into astronomy is that
there is so much learning about the celestial bodies we see through the piece of glass but
more of getting to know some of the physics behind the telescope. I have always wanted a
telescope since I was a child but my family was not able to afford one back in the early 80’s.
Even though I could not have one at the time I remember watching Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”
on our 14 inch television set with the rabbit ear antenna. Carl Sagan is an American
astronomer, astrophysicist, and a science communicator within the science community.
Carl Sagan is very well known for his work and contributions to science. I loved watching
Cosmos as a kid and I also loved watching a lot of science t.v. shows that would air such like
Mr. Wizard, Bill Nye The Science Guy, and Julius Sumner Miller along with many others as
they came along.
I saw the sky from the northern most parts of the Sea of Japan to
the very most southern parts of South America, U.S.S. Makin Island summer 2009. I fast
forward a bit but there is so much to say about what I have seen but I will keep it short. I
was fascinated by the viewings of the night sky and being able to see the Milky Way over
my head late at night, watching the sunrise and the sunset from the ship is an experience
like no other.
I left the Navy June 2012 but officially released from service on July 23, 2012. I was
offered a job in Arizona to work at Intel Corporation as an Engineering Technician. I
accepted and I moved to Arizona the last week of June 2012. I went for a walk around the
neighborhood I moved into and at the corner of my eye I noticed a white long cylindrical
shape object that appeared to be like a telescope sitting on the curb next to a trash bin. I
looked at it and it appeared to be in great condition with some dust. I was excited but
before taking it I went to the house where the telescope was sitting in front of to speak to
the owner if it was okay for me to take. The owner said that it was junk and that I can take
it. I took it home cleaned the telescope up and opened a small box that had a 25mm at
0.965 inch circumference eyepiece. I was viewing terrestrial objects since it was still
daylight. It was not too long before sunset so that I can point towards the sky. I had no idea
that a piece of glass was going to be a life changing experience for me.
That August night in 2012 was the first time in my life that I had seen the Moon up
close with a telescope. I got to see some of the featured craters like Tycho, other features
like the sea of mare. I was also able to see Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. I was too
excited about all of the things I was able to view with this telescope. Later on that week I
had decided to save money to buy me a large telescope and one that I am able to use for
years to come. About half a year had past and I had saved enough money to buy the
telescope that I had wanted. I ended up buying a Meade LX200 8 Schmidt-Cassegrain
Telescope with all of the works. Large telescope but yet portable to go anywhere. The
telescope came in a week later via shipping on my day off from work. I opened one box
then the other box. I took out the instructions and went over the manual for over an hour.
After the hour I took the telescope onto the front yard and started setting up the
telescope for alignment. Once setting up the alignment on the telescope then I was able to
use the goto function to view my first celestial object, which was Orion’s Nebula. I was
amazed, excited, and overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions. Needless to say on how
happy I was with my new telescope, I still found myself going back to my first telescope
that I picked up off the street. Several months later I started taking classes at the University
and I was up in a toss between a degree in electronics or a degree in physics. I chose to the
path of becoming a theoretical physicist and it has been quite journey since I had started. I
chose physics because I wanted to learn how’s and understand the why’s of the way things
work. I wanted understand how it was possible for me to see the images I see through my
telescope. I picked up and read a lot of books pertaining to classical to modern day physics.
About half the books I had read pertaining to quantum mechanics at the time I did
not understand. I still read and little by little things made some sense as I went moved
along through my physics classes. Then I learned about light and optics in class. This is
what intrigued me the most since it pertained to my telescope and how light works to
produce an image. I remember going over the lens maker equations a lot because this was a
part of my hobby that I wanted to know about. In one of our physics labs we made a
telescope utilizing a two lens system. The point of the lab is that we were to utilize the lens
maker equation to determine what two lenses were best suited for viewing a distant object
and viewing through magnification of the lenses. There were five lenses to choose from and
all five were tested for focal distances along with curvature measurements.
After running through several tests it was determined that two of the thin lenses
were best suited for viewing the distant object utilizing their magnification properties.
Once the lab was completed as I was going home I wondered about light. I was wondering if
light actually does travel at the speed of light once it goes through a medium. A photon
travels via a medium the same speed it normally travels which is the speed of light c =
2.998 x10^8 m/s or for. It does seem at an instant that the photons that enter a medium
slow down but in reality they are still traveling at c… Reason that they seem to slow down is
due to the amount of atoms with electrons that it collides into. Each electron may absorb
one photon at a time and at other times it may absorb up to 2 or 3 of them during a special
condition when the electron changes states after jumping to a different orbit. When the
electron gains or absorbs a photon it jumps to a discrete energy level and releases energy
in the form of a photon. This keeps happening along the way until it reaches the end of the
medium such as glass thus, it seems as if it has slowed down but due to the many collisions
with electrons along the way it takes some time but still travelling at the speed of c. Once
the photon leaves the medium it travels at the speed of c.
This is the reason why you are able to see images via a telescope and why it works the way
it does to produce images. If photons did not interact with electrons then all one would see
is a blur of light. At this point you might be thinking of light as being a particle, but in all
honesty it’s behavior gives rise to it being a wave.. hence why they call light an
electromagnetic wave. It is okay to think of wave particle duality but there are people out
there that get hung up of the idea of photons being called particles.