Northern Skies Observatory

Tonight we welcome NKAF docent Bobby Farlice-Rubio and his Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium Astronomy Campers to NSO.



Join us this Saturday, 4/12 at 3pm for family astronomy learning and fun at the Craftsbury Public Library.

Our second blog post is up on the Nat Geo website highlighting our work with the Governor's Institutes.

Click this image of the Horsehead Nebula imaged and processed by Madeline McIntire 
to see our second blog post.  Check back for more updates from Peacham in the future.

We are honored to have our work featured in a new blog on the National Geographic website.

Click this image of the 2012 Venus Transit observation at NSO to see the first blog post.  Check back for more updates from Peacham in the future.


Join us

Saturday, 3/22, 3:00PM 

for the Peacham and 
Pope Memorial Libraries 
Spring Equinox 
Astronomy Event

“Building Community 
hrough Astronomy: 
STEM Learning” 

at Peacham Elementary School and 
Northern Skies Observatory 

Free and open to the public



NGC2244 in the Rosette Nebula 

Imaged and processed by Chrystal Zajchowski at NSO on 2/22/14 with the Governor's Institutes of VT
Winter Weekend

The Governor’s Institutes of Vermont (http://www.giv.org/) creates prestigious, fun, accelerated learning residencies on college campuses for highly-motivated Vermont teenagers. Any Vermont student can ask his/her school guidance counselor for referral to a Governor’s Institute for an unforgettable experience of extreme learning and extreme fun. NKAF offered the first-ever Governor’s Institute Winter Weekend class on astrophotography from 2/21-2/23 at Goddard College which included a Star Party at NSO.

Using the recently installed Star Analyser 100 spectroscopic filter on the PlaneWave 17" CDK at the Northern Skies Observatory, images were  taken on January 23, 2014 in order to explore the spectrum of Supernova SN2014J. We are still in the process of developing our understanding of what these images show, as well as our technique with calibrating, taking and interpreting these images, but there are some obvious features to point out.

First, the large dip in the spectrum at 607.1 nm is due to silicon II absorption, and is a marker that this is a Type Ia supernova. Here's why:

The white dwarf star that exploded was primarily composed of oxygen and carbon - the end-products of the hydrogen and helium fusion processes that fueled the star for most of its active life. The original star is not massive enough to create sufficient heat and pressure in its core to enable further fusion, so the internal "fusion-furnace" in the core of the star shuts down and the star shrinks to make a very dense white dwarf (typically the mass of the sun in a volume about the size of the earth, a density of 1 ton per cubic cm), and it slowly cools down over billions of years as it radiates away its energy. 

However, if the white dwarf is part of a binary system, and it steals mass from its companion star rapidly enough, the mass of the white dwarf increases to the point that the temperatures and pressures in the core become large enough to fuse the carbon and oxygen, creating a catastrophic explosion that disrupts the entire star. In this supernova process, large amounts of silicon are produced; we see the signature of the silicon in the spectrum.

But wait - there's more! The wavelength of the silicon II line when measured in a laboratory is 635.5 nm. The spectrum shown gives a value of 607 nm. The shift to a lower wavelength is caused by the explosion debris traveling toward us at high velocities - a blue-shift. The speed of the debris is found by finding the fractional decrease in the wavelength - in this case, the measured wavelength is 4.6% less than the laboratory wavelength. This means that the speed being observed is 4.6% of the speed of light. Therefore, the ejecta are traveling toward us at a speed of 14,000 km/sec! Measurements taken by other observers soon after the supernova was discovered found speeds as high as 20,000 km/sec, fast enough to cross the entire US from New York to Los Angeles in 1/4 sec!

Supernova 2014J in M82 

Imaged at NSO by 
NKAF President Bill Vinton and Educator/Board member Brad Vietje on 1/23/14

Astronomers around the world were excited to see the eruption of a Type Ia Supernova in the (relatively) nearby galaxy M82 (11.5 million light years distant), known familiarly as the "Cigar" galaxy because of its unusual appearance. First observed on January 21 by Dr. Steven J. Fossey at the University of London Observatory, the supernova was subsequently found to be evident in previous observations of M82 taken as early as January 15 . On January 23, when the photograph was taken, the supernova had brightened to magnitude 11, rivaling the brightness of the entire galaxy. It is likely that the supernova will continue to brighten over the next few weeks, perhaps to magnitude 8.5, easily visible with binoculars.

A Type Ia supernova occurs when a white dwarf in a binary star system steals enough mass from the companion star to initiate a sudden, massive runaway fusion reaction in its core that disrupts the entire white dwarf. By contrast, a nova explosion, such as the one that happened this summer in the constellation Delphinus, represents a similar, but much less energetic process, because the rate at which the white dwarf accretes mass from its larger companion is smaller, causing only a relatively gradual surface fusion explosion that does not disrupt the entire star. Another type of supernova, termed Type II, occurs when a heavy star at the end of its life undergoes a sudden catastrophic collapse and explosion.

The luminosities of Type Ia supernovae are quite uniform because of the similarity of the white dwarf progenitors that explode. Thus, they serve as reliable "standard candles" that allow accurate determination of distances to far away galaxies. Observations of Type Ia supernovae in distant galaxies led Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Reiss to conclude in 1998 that the expansion rate of the universe is actually increasing. This momentous discovery led to them being awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics.


M42 - The Orion Nebula 

Imaged at NSO by 
the White Mountain School 
astronomy class on 1/9/14

The Moon

Imaged at NSO by 
the White Mountain School 
astronomy class on 1/9/14


This amazing mosaic of NGC7000, the North America Nebula, was imaged and processed by NKAF President Bill Vinton.

The North American Nebula (NGC7000) is a very large (roughly 2 degrees - about 4 times the size of  the full moon), diffuse, emission nebula that is located in the constellation Cygnus, The Swan. This nebula is found near Deneb, the tail of the Swan, the brightest star in Cygnus, and one of the "Summer Triangle" of stars which also includes Vega and Altair. The red glow of the nebula is the result of a nearby star (perhaps Deneb) that energizes the hydrogen gas, resulting in the reemission much of the adsorbed energy at the hydrogen alpha wavelength. 

This photomosaic consists of nine images of NGC7000 taken on August 18, 2013 with the Northern Skies Observatory 17" PlaneWave CDK reflector using its Apogee Alta U16M CCD camera. Each image is the result of three separate 300 second exposures, one each through Hydrogen Alpha, Oxygen III and Green filters. Each image was processed with ImageJ, with the final mosaic stitched together using the MosaicJ plug-in.

One challenge in processing this mosaic was to adjust the brightness, contrast and color mix of each of the nine images so that they closely matched. For this first attempt, I elected to emphasize the Hydrogen alpha channel, which brings out the red nebulosity seen in the image. A Google Images search illustrates a wide variety of other filter and processing possibilities. In this case, my choices somewhat obscure the "North America" shape, but the "Gulf of Mexico," with the "Yucatan Peninsula" sticking up into it, is located just to the left of center. The intriguing features seen to left of the "Gulf" are known as "Cygnus's Wall" and is the most active region of new star formation in the nebula.

Join us for free events at NSO in 2014.


Check out the latest episode of


'What's UP!?' with Mazie O'Connor! 


Spectral Observations of 
Nova Delphini 2013

Over the past two years, docents and students have developed a sophisticated ability to take attractive photographs of astronomic objects using our wonderful telescope. Now, our initial spectroscopic images represent a new phase in the evolution of our ability demonstrating the potential of Northern Skies Observatory for involving students in authentic scientific research. We have much to learn about the techniques for taking, processing and analyzing such images. 

Click the link below to see NKAF President Bill Vinton's work using NSO's new spectroscopic filter to image the Nova Delphini 2013.



NKAF Docent Bobby Farlice-Rubio continues to educate VT on "The :30" on WCAX, and recently he mentioned his ongoing work at NSO imaging comet ISON.  

Click his photo below for the video.


Join us this Saturday (10/12) at 6:30pm at the Peacham Elementary School for International Observe the Moon Night.


Northern Skies Observatory
9/19/13 article from
The Caledonian Record


Join us this Fall for free events at NSO.

We will be participating in Peacham Fall Foliage Day and International Observe the Moon Night.  Our Star Parties for the rest of the year will be on the first Friday of each month.



NKAF was honored to host ten teenagers from across Vermont and as far away as Colorado and Toronto from 8/4 - 9 at Northern Skies Observatory. Check out our Facebook photo gallery to see some of the fun science.

Image of M20 taken and edited by Frances Kaplan during Space Camp '13 at NSO.


NKAF is thrilled to be featured on 
"The :30" on WCAX.  

Thank you to anchor Kristin Carlson for her excellent interview.  Contact us if you would like a similar tour of NSO.

Click the link below to watch the video. 


Did you hear about NKAF on Vermont Public Radio (VPR) recently?

Charlotte Albright visited the Observatory and reported on how we're helping students improve their STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills.

Click the VPR link below to read/listen to the story.

Take the tour of Northern Skies Observatory like Charlotte did at one of our Star Parties or Open House/Sun Parties. Dates are listed below in our Events section.


Thank you to everyone who attended our benefit concert and Open House.

Your continued support keeps our organization running and will sustain our programs into the future.

Special thank you to the artists and sponsors that made the event so amazing:

 Gallery Photos

The White Mountain School Astrophotography

In May 2012 six students from The White Mountain School visited NSO.  Here are the results of their work.  Click the slide show above to see larger version.

 NSO in the News

  Events - click each event for more details

Venus Transits the Sun - VIDEO   If you have not seen this, look at it.  It's fun.  Click for the time-compressed video.

NEW! All Sky Cam on our Weather Page.   See what is going on right now in the sky above the observatory.

NSO All-Sky-Cam

 Connect with NKAF

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Visit our weather page for a full featured view of what is going on in our neck of the woods. 

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