Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Once in a lifetime

There are still a few minutes to go before sunset and the summit tourists are preparing for a treat. Most payed something like $200 to be taken to the summit with a tour company and although that's an awful lot of money they are treated very well from what I've heard. On the way down they get to see the amazing night sky from either the Visitor Center at the 9,000 foot level or the tour company will provide telescopes for viewing from some of the other dark viewing spots on the mountain.

Unless you're an utter astronomy freak though, sunset is the highlight of the trip. You can watch beautiful sunsets from anywhere on the planet, but watching the sun sink below the clouds from the highest point in the Pacific Ocean is very special. I've lived and worked here nearly 14 years and I don't get bored of the view. It's very nearly 20 years since I watched my first sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea as a visiting astronomer-in-training.

I plan to mark the 20-year anniversary by watching another Mauna Kea sunset and will post the photos here, but it's not for a few months yet!

Even the astronomers and those that work at the observatories want to watch the sunset. In the top photo you can just make out the staff standing by the Gemini mirror inside the dome watching the magical view, and in the one above, the observing team for the night are outside taking in another amazing evening view from the CFHT.

Some of this might also be due to many of the observatories planning to switch to remote operations. It's very hard to imagine that I won't be up on the summit after this year, especially after such a long career spent on the summit. The CFHT are planning remote operations as well and the rumour is Gemini are also looking at the possibility.

It feels very much like the end of an era.

PS. Those shadows below the CFHT are from the Keck telescopes and Subaru.


Keera Ann Fox said...

In your previous post, you suggested taking pictures of other things besides sunsets at the summit. These photos from sunsets at the summit - if not of the sunset itself - are very interesting and have some great colors and details in their own right.

You can hold off on the fishies and flowers and funny pastries a little while longer. :-)

Keera Ann Fox said...

Make "previous" read "latest". :-) Backwards reading I am.