This was taken shortly before we left UKIRT last night. It's of Gemini and its laser and I'm so pleased we saw this because this was one of our visitors' first trip to Mauna Kea, in fact it was her first observing run full stop and things hadn't quite gone to plan thanks to the recent storm. She enjoyed this view though - yet another spectacular sight any visitor to the summit of Mauna Kea will see! (She also got to control the telescope this evening which few, if any, of our visiting astronomers ever get to do!).
Actually it's not one picture as the more astute of you might figure out, it's an average of three separate pictures (each 60-secs long) hence the broken star trails and the seemingly triple laser beam Gemini is using. I also doubt very much it'll really be the last picture I take from the summit!
I mentioned in my last post that I hadn't felt emotional so far but might later on in the night. Well, I'm not embarrassed to admit that when I started to pack up my gear before we headed down I nearly lost it. What a strange feeling. One minute I was fine the next I had tears forming and just had to stop. I even told our visitors I needed a moment to compose myself. It seems many of our final visiting observers have felt the same way, one or two wanting to hug the telescope on their final night and the previous observer being cruelly denied from saying good-bye to the telescope by the winter storm. Even us hardened scientists can be emotional when it comes to inanimate objects! Although perhaps it's just because UKIRT has been responsible for making many people's careers in astronomy, including my own.
The good news, of course, is that UKIRT is not closing yet, it remains operational and the year 2010 looks as though it will be the most productive year in its 31-year history in terms of the peer-reviewed scientific papers it generates. There's still fight in the old girl!
This evening was spent in the office for our third night of remote observing and a new experience - watching us take data with no one in the control room at the summit. At least I could cheer myself up as the England cricket team got off to yet another wonderful start in the third Ashes test match (although they're making a hash of getting that last Aussie wicket as I write this - you can't have everything!).