First Light at Jupiter Ridge Observatory

Simulated view of Jupiter as seen in First Light at JRO

Simulated view of Jupiter as seen in First Light at JRO

Visual “first light” at JRO occurred on October 22, 2011. First light was of Jupiter (fitting for an observatory named “Jupiter Ridge”). The image on the left shows what Jupiter looked like at midnight on First Light night. Three of the four Galilean moons appear in their proper locations for that moment in time. From left to right we saw Europa, Io and Callisto. Ganymede would be located about six inches to the left of the planet well off the page. The actual image on the title page isn’t actually an astrophoto. It is a screen capture of Jupiter from TheSkyX Pro Version, the plantearium program of choice at JRO.

We actually pushed the view to over 1000 power and all agreed that the image held up well at this high power. The seeing (i.e. quality of the sky in terms of steadiness) that night was excellent. And the optics were up to the task.  Normally you would not expect to have detail hold at much more than 250 or 300 power.

Background Information

“First Light” is a term which defines the first images seen with a new telescope. These days for amateur astonomers it is more of a ceremony than a serious event that could portend a great future for a mirror/lens or months more correcting problems. While first light with the JRO 14″ EdgeHD telescope was exciting, it wasn’t the tense situation you find when big scopes first reflect or bend light waves. Imagine the first light on the Palomar Telescope and it’s 200″ mirror. At the time of first light it was the largest mirror in the world and had gone through a painstaking creation process unlike ever seen before. It had taken 20 years to build the observatory, the mount, and make the mirror. Would it be a good “figure” on the mirror? They really didn’t know for sure until they pointed the mirror at NGC 2261 and looked. It was FINE. Fast foward to the Space Institute in Baltimore Maryland in 1990 when they opened the lid to the Hubble Space Telescope and took the first images. They were NOT fine. Here is more information.