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Astronomy

Monitoring Atmospheric Observing Conditions

Gurman, Zev ('11);  Rudy, Alexander ('11);  Choi, Philip

In preparation for the installation of an Adaptive Optics system on Pomona College’s 1-meter telescope at JPL’s Table Mountain Observatory, atmospheric observing conditions were monitored over several nights using three different methods. In the first method, a sequence of short exposures was taken with the 1-m telescope, from which Full Width at Half Maximum measurements were extracted. The second method was Differential Image Motion Monitoring (DIMM), using an 11-inch telescope with a two sub-aperture mask. This was considered to be the most robust method, yielding the most reliable data. Finally, an off-the-shelf seeing monitor, which utilizes image jitter to measure seeing, was installed on site as a permanent instrument. The three sets of data generally agreed on seeing trends throughout the night, with seeing ranging from 1 to 2 arc seconds, according to the DIMM method. There were significant systematic offsets between the methods.
Funding provided by: The Norris Foundation (ZG);  Pomona College SURP (AR)

Continuing Research on Blazars Using Photometry and Polarimetry

Shuman, Joel ('11);  Frederick, Hannah ('10);  Zook, Alma

Blazars are highly active astronomical objects that are believed to be black holes in the center of galaxies. The black hole is surrounded by an accretion disk, which is very flat due to the large angular momentum of the system. Blazars are the particular variety of black hole system with its rotation axis oriented in the direction of the Earth. What makes blazars interesting is the fact that over the course of several weeks, or even over the course of several hours, they can show a high degree of variability both in their brightness and how polarized the light is that is received on Earth. Blazar 3C454.3 is of particular importance because it underwent an outburst last summer and is still in a relatively bright state now. This summer’s observations of 3C454.3 were part of a multiwavelength campaign, including observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope observing this object.
Funding provided by: The Norris Foundation (JS);  Pomona College SURP (HF)

Research at Pomona