Better Eyes on the Skies: New Advances Coming to Martz-Kohl Observatory

Dan Gray

Contributing Writer
Walt Pickut
Marshal Martz Memorial Astronomical Association

On Wednesday evening, May 19, at 7:30, the Martz-Kohl Observatory will be the subject of a case study in what can be done to elevate an already amazing and advanced facility like MKO to a world-class position in its ability to collaborate with educational institutions and astronomers across the nation and around the planet.

May’s special guest Zoom-webinar speaker will be Dan Gray, the 2003 founder of Sidereal Technology (–a cutting edge company focused on developing advanced telescope control systems.

The public is invited to visit, and click on the program announcement on our home page any time after 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday evening, May 19, for the 7:30 program and join in on this fascinating talk about how MKO’s Eyes on the Skies are becoming better than ever. And remember, MKO is your observatory because of your support.

Dan Gray has been involved in astronomy, telescope optics, and mechanics since the early 1980s. Today, Dan continues to create and enhance hardware and software and install such systems around the world.

During the summer of 2021 Dan and Sidereal’s team will be upgrading MKO’s systems along two tracks: 1.) installing new, advanced computer software while finetuning the telescopes to their theoretical best optical performance, and 2.) finalizing MKO’s control systems to allow seamless remote operation by schools, sky watchers, and collaborators in research and observational astronomy anywhere, locally, and globally.

Dan’s talk will illustrate one of the most important upgrades being installed at MKO. He will explain how the resolution (ability to resolve the finest details of distant objects in space) of an optical system such as a telescope or camera. The clearest viewing may be limited by even the slightest imperfections in lenses and mirrors or by misalignment.

While MKO’s telescope optics are already exceptionally fine, vast improvement is still possible. Yet, however good the system may be, there is a limit to the theoretical resolution of any optical system simply due to the physics of light and diffraction.
Using the latest CCD cameras, taking many exposures, and processing the images with special software, astronomers at MKO will be able to approach the “diffraction limit”—the ultimate clarity—of their telescope’s optics.

In this webinar, Dan Gray will share his knowledge of how we can reach these limits in resolution by using various tools and techniques such as speckle interferometry. The recent realignment of Martz-Kohl Observatory’s 24-inch Dall-Kirkham telescope will serve as a use-case.

Supermoon & Disappearing Moon

On May 26, the next night of a Full Moon, we will be treated to a Supermoon. On the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun, the Moon’s face is fully illuminated. Early Native American peoples named it the Flower Moon for the spring flowers now in abundance, also called the Corn Planting Moon because if we don’t plant now, we won’t eat next winter. This second of three supermoons of 2021 will also be near its closest to Earth and may appear slightly larger and brighter than usual.

By June 10 the New Moon will located on the sun-facing side of Earth with its back to the sun. It will not be visible at all in the night sky. This is the best time for viewing faint objects, galaxies, and star clusters without moonlight to interfere.

Keep looking up. MKO is your observatory because of your support.

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.