Virtual observatory allows students to explore the galaxy


Sacred Heart Greenwich

The observatory sessions at Sacred Heart continue virtually this year.

Though the school year looks different, Sacred Heart Greenwich continues to hold virtual informal observatory nights via ZoomMr. Rick Bria, Astronomy Technician, live streams the astronomy sessions from the Mary Aloysia Hardey RSCJ Observatory every Thursday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. for members of the Sacred Heart community

Mr. Bria and Mr. Morrow work together to provide students with access to the virtual observatory sessions.  Sofia Pye ’21

We spend about 15 minutes on each of the four objects viewed during a session,” Mr. Bria said.  “We have only had two sessions, and there’s been some bumps in the road but all in all the sessions have been very encouraging.  I’ve had to change software, hardware and wiring connections to allow virtual sessions.  The result however is a more versatile and capable observatory.”

Zoom participants are able to see images of a distant object build over the course of a few minutes.  Mr. Bria also uses processed photographs made from the data acquired at each session so the participants see the images as if they are in the observatory.   

Recently in the virtual sessions, students were able to view the Andromeda Galaxy, the Witch’s Broom Nebula, the Ring Nebula, and the Hercules star cluster. 

The observatory telescope captures images of the Witch’s Broom Nebula, shown during the virtual “Zoom around the Galaxy” session.  Courtesy of Mr. Rick Bria

“Nothing can replace being out under the stars in the chill of the night, peering at distant Planet, star cluster or galaxy through the telescope,” Mr. Bria said.  “Still, I think the virtual observatory sessions have been enjoyable and educational.”

Mr. Robert Morrow, Upper School Science and Astronomy Teacher, assists Mr. Bria during his virtual sessions.  He encourages members of the Upper School to participate in order to learn more about astronomy, using state-of-the-art technology, from the comfort of their own homes.

“Astronomy is really important in general,” Mr. Morrow said. “Being able to use the observatory lets people ask all sorts of questions that are related to our interest in the universe.  I think it is wonderful for everyone because there is a lot that we learn from Astronomy and why we are doing research and exploration in space.  Having our own observatory and camera, we can see the full range of color and present images of what is in space that can be pretty accurate.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Sacred Heart Greenwich