Student Life

Of Chess and Frogs

I have been so busy with classes lately that I have had little time to blog. But fear not readers! I will have a new astronomy post out soon…my physics classes permitting. In the meantime, let’s have some fun with mnemonics.

Mnemonics are not only useful memory devices but are also really fun to make up. For example, this traditional mnemonic for taxonomic ranks came up in my  paleobiology class recently:

King Phillip Cried Out For Good Soup

The ranks in order from most inclusive to least are: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Domain can also be added at the very beginning. But this is BORING. A friend of mine back in high school biology came up with a much better one:

Kids Playing Chess On Freeway Go Splat

Morbid? Yes, but I always remember it! There is also a traditional mnemonic used to remember the spectral classes of stars:

O Be A Fine Girl/Guy Kiss Me

Kissing? Lame! A person in my astronomy class came up with this one:

Frogs and stars
From my galaxies and cosmology course. Great class!

Only Bad Ass Frogs Get Kids Meals

What is a “bad ass frog” you ask? Beats me!

What’s your favorite mnemonic?

Student Life

My First Telescope

Last weekend I ordered an 8 inch Dobsonian from Orion Telescopes and Binoculars for just under $400 which isn’t bad as far as telescopes go. I’ve always wanted one of my own, but it wasn’t until the last couple of months that I looked into one seriously. After all, what is an astronomer without his scope? To my surprise the Dob was delivered by Wednesday afternoon—that is some speedy delivery! The entire thing came in two boxes: one with the optical tube and the other with the mount which required some assembly. Where better to assemble your first telescope than at your local university’s observatory?

Me unboxing the telescope.
Me unboxing the telescope inside the campus observatory.

My friend Dustin, who is an astrophotographer, helped me unbox and collimate the telescope. While we worked on that some of my peers were using the campus observatory to try and detect an exoplanet by transit photometry. Here’s the telescope put together:


Around midnight we moved it outside of the observatory to align the guide scope and try out a few targets. Some of the objects we looked at included Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57), and the Hercules Globular Cluster (M13). We also looked at several stars such as the famous Double Double in the constellation Lyra.

For the interested reader here are the telescope specs:

Primary mirror diameter: 203 mm
Primary mirror focal length: 1200 mm
Focal ratio: f/5.9
Focuser: 2″ and 1.25″ eyepieces with adapter
Guide scope: EZ Finder II (reflex sight)
Tube dimensions: 46.5” x 9.25”
Total weight: 41 lbs