...since my last view of a sunset from Mauna Kea. Tonight is the final night of a three-night run on the summit and I'm feeling it! Due to various scheduling reasons I didn't really have any summit time in December and I was planning to take vacation in January. Unfortunately, that was canceled due to Pam's illness but since I wasn't planning to be around, I wasn't scheduled to be at the summit. Those two months at sea level certainly made the effects of the altitude a little more noticeable although it wasn't long before I was back in my groove.
Alessandra, an astrochemistry PhD student and scientific collaborator from The University of Nottingham is observing with me after spending a few nights at Gemini. She definitely improves the atmosphere in our control room with her delightful Italian accent! Unfortunately for her the first two nights of this run were rubbish. We were open the first night but high winds made it difficult to take any useful data and even higher winds and high humidity, plus a nice dust storm inside the dome meant that we remained closed most of the second night.
Tonight the winds have calmed, the sky is fairly clear although at sunset there was cloud to the south west - the sort that helps to make the sunset look pretty! The picture above was the view from just outside the UH 88-inch telescope looking north to west with Gemini to the left, the cinder cones which run from the summit area down to the Saddle in the middle and the shadow of Mauna Kea to the right. Walking back down from the UH 88-inch I stopped to take this (HDR) photo of UKIRT against the setting sun. That wouldn't have been possible yesterday evening, my camera would been blown off the mountain and my face sandblasted.