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Stellar Finds Category

Great Horned Owl

May. 4, 2020—Dyer Observatory is a unique parcel of the Vanderbilt University campus due to its seclusion at the peak of Brentwood ridge. The site is made even more special by being entirely surrounded by the verdant Radnor Lake State Natural Area. A special feature of Radnor is the Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center which can...

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Shatter Cone from the Wells Creek Basin

May. 1, 2020—Tennessee’s Wells Creek impact basin, located about an hour and a half drive northwest of Nashville, is the source of this shatter cone. It was formed by the shock wave of a meteorite impact massive enough to travel through underlying rock in a branching pattern, which created cone-shaped rock fragments with distinctive striation radiating from...

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Comet Mrkos

Apr. 29, 2020—Occasionally, Nashville residents are lucky enough to see a comet pass in the night sky. In August 1957, Comet Mrkos, named for the Czechoslovakian astronomer Antonín Mrkos who discovered it, was visible for a few weeks to the naked eye. It was dubbed the “2nd Visiting Comet” because that spring, the passing of Comet Arend-Roland...

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The Ferguson Fused-Quartz Mirror

Apr. 28, 2020—Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory owes its existence to this 24″ fuzed-quartz disk, which unbeknownst to many first-time visitors to the observatory, is actually an uncoated (no reflective layer) telescope mirror. Vanderbilt University’s acquisition of this mirror, formally known as the Ferguson fused-quartz disk, began around June 1943. The 24″ mirror was made by John Ferguson...

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The Great Debate

Apr. 27, 2020—Up until the early 1920s, astronomers questioned one of the fundamental aspects of astronomy that we take for granted today: Is the Milky Way the entire universe or just a small part of it? By the start of the 20th century, astrophotography techniques were beginning to advance, allowing astronomers to gain clearer and deeper images...

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The DeWitt Wren

Apr. 24, 2020—On a spring day in May of 2009, then graduate student (now Dyer Observatory astronomer) Billy Teets entered the dome housing Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory’s DeWitt Telescope to retrieve a tool left from work done earlier in the year.  An unexplained feeling told him that he should look within the telescope itself.  To his surprise, he...

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Moon Halo

Apr. 23, 2020—On nights when a bright moon is seen through passing cirrostratus clouds, one might have the opportunity to witness a moon halo, just like the one above captured by Dyer Observatory’s All-Sky camera.  The halo measures 22° from the center to the bright inside edge, about twice the width of a fist at arm’s length, and...

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The Solar Eclipse of March 7, 1970

Apr. 22, 2020—Did you witness the great solar eclipse of March 7, 1970? Totality crossed Florida and skirted up the United States’ eastern seaboard, but a partial eclipse was visible across the contiguous forty-eight states. In Nashville, the partial eclipse began at 11:04 am and lasted until 2:35 pm. At its peak at 12:20 pm, 84% of...

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Inclination Compass

Apr. 21, 2020—When entering Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory, one of the first things noticed is the large display case in the front lobby.  Behind its glass, you will find artifacts dating back to the 1870s that reflect the history of astronomy at Vanderbilt University, including Vanderbilt’s Dyer Observatory.  The majority of the exhibit is comprised of what is...

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The DeWitt Observatory

Apr. 13, 2020—At the heart of Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory is the 24″ Seyfert Telescope.  Installed in 1953, thousands of visitors peek through it annually at our various public events.  The Seyfert Telescope, however, is not oldest telescope telescope still used at Dyer Observatory.  In the 1930s, John H. (“Jack”) DeWitt, one of the key figures responsible for...

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