AAS 204th Meeting, June 2004
Session 35 Professional-Amateur Collaboration for Enhanced Research
Topical Session, Tuesday, June 1, 2004, 8:30-10:00am, 10:45am-12:30pm, 710/712

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[35.04] Amateur Spectroscopy: What is Achievable from the Backyard?

D.E. Mais (Palomar College), R.E. Stencel (U. Denver)

Recent advances in technology have opened the doors for amateurs to potentially contribute in the area of spectroscopy. This is due to both a shift in the use of more sensitive CCD detectors and the recent availability of powerful and versatile spectrometers aimed at the amateur community. We will focus on the instrument produced by Santa Barbara Instrument Group (SBIG), the Self-Guided Spectrometer (SGS). This instrument appeared on the market about four years ago aimed at a sub group of amateurs. In conjunction with SBIG CCD cameras, the SGS is self-guiding in that it keeps the image of an object locked onto the entrance slit, which allows for long exposures to be taken. The SGS allows spectra to be obtained with only modest aperture instruments of stars down to 10-12 magnitude. In addition, the SGS features a dual grating carousal which, with the flip of a lever, allows you to obtain dispersions in the low-resolution mode (~4 Angstroms/pixel) or higher resolution mode (~1 Angstrom/pixel). In the low-resolution mode, about 3000 Angstrom coverage is obtained whereas in the high-resolution mode, about 750 Angstroms. The area of the visible and near infrared part of the spectrum you decide to obtain a spectrum is dialed in by the user. More recently, swappable grating carousals have allowed for gratings with even higher dispersions (0.5 -0.3 Angstroms/pixel). The lower resolution mode is useful for stellar classification and obtaining spectra of planetary nebula. In the high-resolution modes, many absorption lines are visible of atoms, ions and simple molecules. In addition, one can measure the Doppler shift of absorption and emission lines to determine velocities of approach or recession of objects along with rotation velocities of stars and planets. Our particular interests have focused on identifying chemical elements/ions and compounds in the atmospheres of stars and nebulae. The resolution and sensitivity of the instrument is such that we have been able to identify the unstable element technetium in certain S and C type stars along with anomalous 12C/13C ratios as measured by absorption bands of diatomic carbon (C2). Measurements of certain line intensity ratios in planetary nebula allows for the calculation of both the nebula temperature and electron density. Our presentation will go into detail on the use of the SGS, its calibration and some of the kinds of measurements that can be made with an amateur sized telescope equipped with such “off the shelf” instrument.

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