Starting from the birthplace of the SETI Institute, we’re traveling across the US to share the experience of the eVscope in person!
You probably already know that the Unistellar eVscope is a smart, digital, robotic telescope that can see galaxies, nebulae, and other deep sky objects in full color. It only takes a couple of seconds to start seeing the objects, and the picture gets clearer and clearer as the light is being collected.
So far, it has been really fun to share beautiful images of the night sky with people who weren’t expecting to see them when they woke up that morning. Most of the people we’ve met haven’t seen a live image of a galaxy or nebula before; they can only see the sky they have in their backyards or by searching on the internet. Even people that have amazing dark skies often don’t get to see the multitude of distant celestial objects that make up our universe, because they don’t know where or how to look. It’s been amazing to see people enjoy observing these objects in their very own skies, learning that they were there the whole time and yet unavailable to see; our cosmos in close-up. The goal of the Unistellar on the Road is to bring this experience to more people across the US.
Over the next few months, we will be traveling North up to Maine and then West towards Washington. Stay tuned for more!
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Our first stop was the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia. In 1961, Dr. Frank Drake first presented the Drake Equation, conceived at the Green Bank Observatory while he was working there as a radio astronomer. The observatory is home to the Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope!
We even saw the 85-foot Howard E. Tatel Radio Telescope which was used in the very first SETI Institute experiment called Project Ozma! Dr. Frank Drake used this telescope to examine the stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani, searching for signs of life in distant planetary systems.
Along the way, we saw the stunning vistas of West Virginia sprawl out around us. Most of the time we were driving through or near the Appalachian Mountains, the largest mountain chain east of the Mississippi River. The Appalachian Mountains date back to more than 480 million years ago. Before they eroded, they were most likely similar in height to the Rocky Mountains or the Alps!
Check out the views!
The views were spectacular, but the steep mountainous slopes were difficult to drive on, and it was really taxing on the Unistellar RV. At one point, we used a quarter of our gasoline tank going up a steep incline, over the course of just 10 minutes!
Also, we had virtually no cell signal traveling through this part of West Virginia! This region is known as the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ), where radio transmissions are restricted for scientific research and military use. (The Green Bank Observatory is located within the NRQZ.) As we traveled through this region, we saw isolated homes and very small towns. Most homes had a large dish in their yard, most likely for DSL TV and internet.
One thing that stood out to us on our drive was this unexpected carnival!
The next day we showed the eVscope to Mitch and Teresa Pennington, the owners of Just Plane Adventures Lodging and Campground. Just Plane Adventures has amazing dark skies, rated Class 3 Bortle! We saw many nebulae and galaxies, and they came into view even quicker than usual. (We’re used to Bortle 5.) They were amazed by how within seconds they could see deep sky objects appear in full color! Mitch and Teresa loved the eVscope and they were fascinated by just how many celestial objects in the sky we could see. They had always looked up and enjoyed their amazing dark sky, but they had never seen nebulae or galaxies before. This time they had a chance to see the cosmos close up!
Our observations from the eVscope (below) have no edits or touching! Note the very recently discovered supernova in galaxy M85!
We highly recommend Just Plane Adventures to anyone looking to experience West Virginia at its purest. It’s a beautiful, spacious campground with a lot of great amenities. It even has a landing strip for personal planes, hence the name! The skies are impressively dark, which was our favorite part. Mitch and Teresa are wonderful, friendly, and helpful people.
If you’re close to the Medley, West Virginia area this weekend (July 18, 2020), be sure to stop by and experience the eVscope at their campground from 10pm-12am! We hope to see you there!
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Follow our journey and find the latest information about upcoming demos on Unistellar on the Road. If you’re on social media, follow Unistellar and look for #ontheroad!