Alex’s June 14th Blog

Early this morning, I mean REALLY early, I woke up to do my first observations at the Morehead Observatory at UNC. My alarm didn’t go off so one of the TAs had to knock on my door at 12:50am to wake me up for my group’s 1am observation shift. Luckily my roommate wasn’t asleep so they didn’t get woken up from the knocking. After meeting the rest of my group downstairs in the dorm, we headed over to the telescope to learn the basics of how it worked. I was a little frightened when we got there because the first thing the TA told us was not to touch the 240V exposed wire that encircles the observatory that would kill us on contact. Moving on to more fun things, we started learning about the telescope and the software that controls it. We opened the dome and focused the telescope and soon we were able to start taking pictures. One of the best images we captured was of the Eagle Nebula using the H-Alpha filter.

I’m so happy we had such a clear night so we were able to take this amazing picture. After shutting down the telescope around 3am, we headed back to the dorms and I fell asleep immediately. I decided to skip breakfast in the morning to get some precious extra minutes of sleep so I wasn’t too tired all day. I had a quick snack and headed to our first lecture of the day which was about planning the times of our observations and thinking about the sun with respect to the rest of the celestial sphere. It took me a while to get a grasp on sidereal time but I felt like I got a lot out of the lecture. One of the things I have enjoyed most about SSP lectures compared to a normal class at school is how practical the concepts are. It is easy to see how the content of each lecture is related to finding and imaging our asteroid and this makes them much more engaging (although 3 hours is still a long time for me to pay attention). Luckily this lecture had a built-in break since the fire alarm went off about halfway through. We only had to stay outside for about 10 minutes or so but it was a beautiful day outside and it was nice to get some fresh air.

Then we all headed to lunch where I was happy to finally have my first meal of the day. I’ve been trying my best to eat healthy while at SSP but the cafeteria doesn’t make it easy. I’ve been loving the salad bar but besides that there aren’t very many healthy options which is too bad. We walked back to lunch and shortly thereafter went back to Phillips for the second lecture of the day. This covered vector multiplication, gaussian elimination, and rotation matrices. I had already learned about the first two topics but it still helped to have a refresher. On the other hand, rotation matrices were new to me and I thought they were very interesting and have clear implications for rotating the elliptical orbit of our asteroid. After the lecture I had some time to work on the PSet of the night and was able to finish it which felt great. Then I changed into more formal clothes and went to dinner. I sat with Dr. H and had some interesting conversations about his research at CERN and in Hawaii. After dinner I watched some people play spikeball which has become very popular among SSP participants.

Overall I have really enjoyed my experience at SSP and everyday has been more fun than the last. I hope this trend continues and I am excited for all that is to come!

About Me

Hi! My name is Alex and I go to Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, Indiana. In my free time I enjoy reading, photography, and cycling. I’ve loved math and science for as long as I can remember and am very excited about the opportunities SSP has to offer. I want to pursue a career in aerospace engineering and I think SSP will be a great way to tell if I am on the right path.