“The system works great,” said Tom Traub, one of Martz Observatory’s volunteer astronomers after a recent visit to Frewsburg High school. “Just a few more wrinkles with security firewalls and we’re home.”
Traub and his Martz colleague, John Anderson, have taken the school system’s Internet security very seriously in helping to design a simple, turn-key method for teachers and students to remotely access the Martz telescopes for classroom learning, astrophotography and research projects.
Astronomical research is probably the most unlimited endeavor possible, Martz astronomers say, because its subject is quite literally everything, the entire universe. And the subject matter is free to everyone on the planet; just look up. “Astronomy is a wonderful unifier for people everywhere,” Traub recently explained to observatory visitors. “It can bring us all together.”
Astronomical targets are often easy to view, photograph and study. One of the members of the Martz Observatory team, for instance, takes regular photos of distant galaxies through Martz’s main telescope. Each galaxy in the cosmos is a cousin to our own Milky Way Galaxy, a vast whirlpool in space filled with hundreds of billions of stars. Every once in a while, perhaps a few times each year, one of those stars explodes in a cataclysm of light that outshines its entire home galaxy and is visible across the millions of light years between itself and Earth. It is impossible to miss in a simple photograph.
There are thousands of galaxies within view of the Martz telescopes, so chances seem good that at least one of those explosions will show up on a photographic image soon. They are of immense scientific value for scientific study and early detection is critical.
This is an example of important science open to every citizen, and at Martz, especially to local students and teachers. Plans are also under way to make the robotic control, viewing and imaging systems available to other selected organizations and individual citizens at home with a graduated pricing system based on viewing time desired. Membership in the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association is open to the public and special remote viewing rates for members will be in effect.
Membership for individuals and families is available and tours can be arranged given at least two weeks advanced notice. Visit www.martzobservatory.org to learn more.