Up ] [ Project Lists ] Resources ] Cape Elizabeth ] Brunswick High School ] Windham ] Bonny Eagle High School ] Gould Academy ]

List of ideas and suggestions for projects at BPO:


1.     Binary stars separation can be readily measured in fractions of arc-seconds using the CCD cameras.  Some binary star systems can have their orbit times measured through changes in their magnitude.  What details can be observed with the CCD camera?  (Individual colors of binary stars, separations, and orbital times)

2.     Variable stars oscillate in magnitude.  Some do so on a regular basis, others irregularly.  A great deal of effort has gone into studying different types of variable stars and how they work.  What details and patterns can be observed with the CCD?

3.     Asteroid rotation can be measured with the CCD camera.  As a given asteroid rotates, its visible magnitude forms a pattern of two peaks and two lows per revolution.  How readily can this data be captured with the CCD camera?  Can that information collected on asteroids be submitted to an international observation committee?


1.     Planetary rotation of Jupiter – how readily can its surface movement be monitored and measured?  How about Saturn, or other planets?

2.     Planet Moon movement of Jupiter, Saturn, etc.  How accurately can the orbital rate be measured?  Can some transit shadows be captured, when one of Jupiter’s moons passes in front of Jupiter can casts a shadow on it?

3.     Surface features of Jupiter, Mars.  How much surface detail can be seen?  What telescope magnification works best, and what computer processing enhances visible detail the most?  How often do these discernable surface features change?

4.     Moon observations – what are smallest observable features.  Compute the km/pixel scale for a given sized picture and stretch of moonscape.  Can the landing sites of the various Lunar Landing missions be identified?

5.     Comet studies: how much visible tail for given distance from the Sun and Earth?  What kind of exposure and computer processing produces the best comet image?

6.     Sun observations – How much detail can be observed for sunspots?  How quickly do these sunspots change, and move across the sun’s surface. How many sunspots can be counted on a given week?

 Deep Sky:

1.     Galaxy types – How much detail can be captured?  How readily can a set of photographed galaxies be used to recreate the official galactic categorizing system used to identify various types of galaxies?

2.     Search Methods for Super Nova and new asteroids or comets – CCD cameras make it very straightforward to do searches for new super novas, asteroids, and comets.  What are your actual odds of finding a new discovery?  What methods are used, and what ways can be used to improve the odds of capturing a new object?

3.     Planetary Nebulas – there are many remnants of exploded stars that can be observed using the CCD camera.  Studies have been done on what the actual 3D shape of these explosions is like.  What different kind of planetary nebulas can be observed with the CCD camera?  How are their 2-D shapes different?  What 3D theoretical models would correspond to these shapes?

4.     Nebulas – New stars are forming inside these collections of dust and gas.  What kind of detail in these nebulas can be captured with the camera?  How does this correspond with professional theories on stars forming in those nebulas, etc?

 CCD Methods:

1.     Dark frame calibration – the ST-7E digital camera can cool itself down to as much as –50 degrees Celsius during the winter.  What are the benefits and penalties of operating at such cold temperatures?

2.     What is the limiting magnitude observable with the ST-7E?  Even short exposures will show magnitude 18 or fainter stars.  How faint and small a galaxy or nebula can be photographed?

3.     CCD cameras have rather small field of views.  Mosaics are used to create larger images by overlapping several pictures covering a target object’s entire extents.  What methods work best for creating a seamless finished image?  How susceptible to problems are mosaics when applied to the moon, large nebulas, etc?

4.     Color imaging with CCD cameras produces beautiful pictures, but can be very subjective!  Filters are used, but how sensitive to different types of light is the CCD camera?  What types of light pass through the atmosphere best? How is an object’s appearance different when close to the horizon vs. right overhead?

5.     Digital images benefit immensely from computer processing.  What processing methods work best for what kind of pictures (planetary, moon shots, galaxies, nebulas, comets, etc)?  What improvements are gained, compared to degradation?

6.     Image Stacking – there is some amount of debate in the CCD industry as to which works better… single long exposures, or adding together several shorter exposures.  What are the tradeoffs between the two different methods?

Pretty Pictures:

1.     Needless to say, the CCD camera can produce fascinating, beautiful pictures.  What methods work the best for a given object?  What objects have the most interesting appearance?  How faint can that object be?  How long an exposure produces the best result?  Should color imaging be used?  What field of view frames the object best?  What digital processing enhances the picture best?  What other CCD methods work best such as stacking and mosaics?  How much does the telescope’s star tracking ability affect the image during windy nights, etc?

Student Designed Projects:

1.     Students are encouraged to make suggestions for possible projects!


Up ] [ Project Lists ] Resources ] Cape Elizabeth ] Brunswick High School ] Windham ] Bonny Eagle High School ] Gould Academy ]

Copyright © Blueberry Pond Observatory, 1999. All rights reserved.