available, we were able to plan our areas of research. I was part of three different projects: determining the Hubble constant, searching for organic compounds in molecular clouds, and designing a mission to Mars to search for evidence of life. Unfortunately, our observing time was cut short by the early arrival of monsoon season
midway through the week. All of the teams however, were able to find enough data to make a presentation to the group on the last day of camp.
To determine the Hubble constant, or the rate, at which the universe is expanding, we used a simple equation discovered by Hubble. The equation is H = vd (the Hubble constant equals the velocity at which an object is receding from us times its distance from us). We determined distances by looking at the brightest elliptical galaxy of a cluster. Apparently, there exists a relationship between the luminosity of the brightest elliptical galaxy of a cluster and its distance. Using one cluster's brightest elliptical galaxy of known distance as a calibrator, we were able to use computer programs to determine the distances of several other clusters after photographing them with the 61-inch. We planned on using spectroscopy to determine the recessional velocities of the clusters. Unfortunately, the monsoons made this impossible and we had to look up the values on the Internet instead. In the end, we came up with a Hubble constant of 68.2 km/s per megaparsec, which indicates that the universe is about 14 billion years old.
Looking for organic compounds in molecular clouds was a bit more difficult. To find good data on a project such as this, more sensitive equipment is necessary than what was available at camp. We hoped to use spectroscopy, but the clouds from the monsoons disrupted our plans. We were able to look at submillimeter (microwave) data taken by one of the counselors of a few molecular clouds. After analyzing the data with computer programs, we found carbon monoxide in a couple clouds. Planning a mission to Mars was somewhat easier, since it didn't involve observing time. We researched the web and found a variety of techniques to incorporate into our probe that would search for organic compounds and nanobacteria.
Needless to say, it was a very busy week. We did take a break from our work in the middle of the week to camp in tents on Mt. Graham, where the Submillimeter Telescope, the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT), and the soon-to-be-completed Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), are all located. Mt. Graham is four hours away from Mt. Lemmon. On the way there we stopped at the University and toured the mirror lab, where the twin 8.4-meter mirrors for the LBT are being constructed. When we reached our campsite (over 9,000 feet about sea level) we pitched tents and roasted marshmallows. We had hoped to spend the night gazing at the sky - which is supposedly more impressive than the Mt. Lemmon or Mt. Bigelow sky. Sadly, the monsoons had no mercy on us and we spent the night in our tents listening to thunder and hoping that the grizzly bears would stay away.
The following day we toured the three observatories at the summit of Mt. Graham. They were all incredible - especially the LBT. Once the LBT is completed, it will be a world-class observatory - more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope. The VATT was also interesting. Hanging on the wall near the entrance is a plaque that reads: "This new tower for studying the tars had been erected on this peaceful site so fit for such studies and it has been equipped with a new large mirror for detecting the faintest glimmers of light from distant objects during the XV reign of John Paul II. May whoever searches here night and day the far reaches of space use it joyfully with the help of God."
The Submillimeter telescope was also a sight to see. We were allowed to view the control rooms and the instruments in detail. The highlight of this instrument was standing by as the antenna was opened for us. On our way back to Mt. Lemmon we stopped at the University to hear a lecture on stellar evolution. Once the night had fallen we were in the mountains again, searching for answers to our

projects. My week in Arizona at Astronomy Camp was one, which I don't believe I'll ever forget. It was, to me, a preview of what lies ahead in my life. I plan to major in astronomy and physics in college after I graduate from high school in a year. At least now I have an idea of what the lifestyle of an astronomer is really like. The work is hard, the nights are long, the data is hard to get, the weather can be infuriating, and I won't likely become rich. Yet, after spending a week in the mountains of Arizona studying the heavens I'm even more certain than ever that being an astronomer is the only profession that could make me truly happy, and the one, which I plan to pursue.

LBT construction photo used with permission

Recently the University Lowbrow Astronomers held a program at the Peach Mountain Observatory demonstrating a unique indirect method unto which Astronomy can be promoted while providing financial support to other community based organizations.
                                               Randy K. Pruitt

               Last year several months after I moved to Ann Arbor I began attending the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ann Arbor.  There, I found that the Church was and is involved with many community programs such as the development of a children's center, Habitat for Humanity and the development and support of a shelter for homeless families called Alpha House.  Which, had recently gone into operation on Jackson Rd. in Ann Arbor.
               One method that the Church uses to help fund it's programs is the use of a Service Auction.  This is where people sell their services such as plumbing and carpentry work to the highest bidder wherein the money then goes to the Church and it's programs.  This Auction is held annually in April. I first learned of the Auction during the coffee hour after service in late January. Valerie, the woman who organized the Auction, to my surprise as I stood at her table, asked me if I had any services I could sell.  I then half heartily retorted,  "say how about the cosmos"!  She looked puzzled for a second and then asked what I meant by that.  I then told her I was with the University Lowbrow Astronomers and suggested the sale of a family outing at the Peach Mountain

                                          REFLECTIONS - Sept 2001

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