Cranbrook Observatory Temporarily Eclipsed

Cranbrook Observatory Temporarily Eclipsed
May 4, 2012 Frank J. Bunker

Cranbrook Observatory SupermoonThe Cranbrook Observatory will be closed to renovation beginning Monday, May 7. The upgrades in astronomical equipment and facilities are expected be completed in September of this year.

The Planetarium, Museum and other parts of the Cranbrook Institute of Science will remain open while the observatory is temporarily closed. Get details about the Cranbrook Institute of Science online or by telephone (248) 645-3200.

There’s plenty of astronomy to get in before Monday. On Saturday, the full moon will occur on its closest approach to the earth in 19 years. There is no real cause reason for alarm, the gravitational impact of the alignment is minimal.

Weather permitting, get somewhere were you can enjoy a view of the eastern horizon at sunset. What really counts is being aware of the occassion and taking a moment to look at our celestial neighbor.

The image above, courtesy of NASA, shows the relative appearance of the full moon at perigee — its closest approach, and apogee, — its farthest point in its elliptical orbit of the earth. There is a noticeable difference, about 14-percent, in relative diameter.

Regarding the future of the terrestrial treasure that is the Cranbrook Observatory, the complete scoop from Michael J. Narlock, head of Astronomy, Technology & Exhibits at Cranbrook Institute of Science:

Spring and summer 2012 will mark the most significant changes in astronomy studies at Cranbrook since the telescope was first installed in the 1930’s as the Institute of Science implements a series of upgrades to its observatory.

Three new telescopes, architectural changes in the viewing space, a new dome, and compatibility with the planetarium will create an experience unparalleled anywhere in the Midwest. The main telescope, a remote controllable 20-inch CDK research grade system, will be partnered with 6-inch Takahashi refractor and a Lunt solar telescope for better viewing capabilities and even live observation of the Sun. In addition, high quality CCD image cameras will enable real- time recording and conversion of images into digital photos for use on the planetarium dome. These cameras also will be operable from the planetarium.

Part of a generous gift from the Mike and Adele Acheson family, the observatory improvements complete the total renovation of the astronomy infrastructure at the Institute started last year with upgrades to the planetarium. Since re-opening in October, The New Acheson Planetarium has offered visitors a 360 degree aural experience that delivers images that are three times brighter, crisper and more color saturated than before. In addition, a “green” lighting system for the projection of any color in the spectrum for greater visual effects capabilities, new sound systems and technology deliver the most intense planetarium experience in southeast Michigan.

Following completion of the upgrades, the Institute will be able to offer expanded observatory hours and programming that will continue the tradition of astronomy studies at Cranbrook. The original telescope, purchased by the Booth family for just under $4,000, will be preserved and displayed in the new observatory. Improvements will begin when the observatory closes in early spring and will be completed by mid-September.



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