Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Sunrise from Mauna Kea: I

It's the end of the night shift for us on the mountain. After a long night spent trying to satisfy our scientific curiosity it's time to shut down the telescopes and drive down to Hale Pohaku for some much needed sleep. I don't usually take pictures at dawn, I'm usually too tired and all I can think of is breakfast and trying to get some sleep down below. Despite being so tired, I know sleep at 9,000 feet will be fitful and like nearly everyone else I've spoken to who has slept at HP, my dreams will be bizarre and sometimes quite disturbing. It's one of the strange effects of sleeping at altitude that none of the observatory websites tell you about!

The sun is still below the horizon and the Gemini telescope is still open and trying to get the last photons from the Universe for the night.

The CFHT has closed, the sky is now too bright to be able to work and the staff inside the dome are doing their end-of-night shutdown procedures.

Keck 2 is shutting down and making sure the dome is closed before sunrise.

And twenty minutes later the observing staff are off down to lower altitudes and breakfast!

On the other hand, Subaru stayed closed all night. The telescope is undergoing some heavy engineering and I believe it'll remain closed until some time in September. It's very noticeable that HP has become a much quieter place at dinner these days!

As ever, click on the pictures for larger versions and I have some more sunrise pictures from the mountain to come.


Zuzana said...

How interesting about strange dreams at high altitudes. My mothers family used to have a cottage in the Slovak woods. When she was a child, her sister would sleep in bed next to the entrance and always complained about having nightmares. Later, almost everyone who slept there had disturbing dreams. Perhaps there was some magnetic field or something, the riddle however was never solved.
Your pictures are breath taking as always, hope the Hawaiian sumer is treating you well,

jeannette said...

From the UK to Hawaii - that's a change!
Since I'm doing dream interpretation (I'm a psychologist) I like to know more about the dreams you're talking about. Is it because of the high altitude you were, or because you were over-tired? Your mental and physical state while awake does have an effect on our dreams...

Tom said...

Jeannette - firstly, thanks for popping by and reading my blog!

I'm pretty tired right now so won't go into detail, but I know it's very common for people sleeping at altitude (9,000 feet in our case) to have difficulty sleeping and report vivid dreams. In my case and many others, sleep comes in one-hour stages: sleep for an hour, awake for half an hour and so on. Many attribute this to a lack of oxygen and the body not realising this while asleep until the body suddenly realises its O2 level is very low, so wakes you up. The low O2 level may or may not play a part in the vivid dreams. I don't think anyone knows.

My own theory, and I'm sure it's bollocks, is that we often wake during REM sleep and therefore remember the dream we're having. Most people at sea level don't wake up that often and don't remember their dreams, but since we do, we just happen to remember more of them - the dreams may be normal it's just we happen to remember more of them than other people.

Happy to talk to you more about this but I need to go to bed!

Sweet dreams! ;)