Thursday, 30 October 2014

End of an era

Tonight is the last night UKIRT operates as a UK telescope. We are closed Friday night during which the changeover to a new operator, the University of Arizona, takes place.

I have worked at UKIRT for 18 years and have observed there since 1991. My feelings are mixed. I am very excited about the future as UKIRT moves ahead and reinvents itself once again. We are moving into areas UKIRT was never designed for but we demonstrated this summer it was quite capable of carrying out its new science mission. I am also sad because I know so many people I have worked with in the past in the UK will likely never visit again. Fortunately, there is interest from the UK astronomical community in staying connected to the telescope. You never know, many old friends may well come out to visit us again, as they did this past week to celebrate UKIRT's achievements, history and its future.

Thank you to everyone who made UKIRT what it is today, and to those who made its future possible.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Hurricane Iselle's aftermath

Hawaii, especially the district of Puna on the Big Island, rarely makes the news, even on the local TV stations in the State. It's a neglected district with many quite poor people living here. Some areas are very beautiful and have many vacation rentals for visitors, some are ravaged by lava flows, but overall it is a large area (roughly the size of Oahu) with thousands of relatively poor families.

Hurricane Iselle devastated much of the district last Thursday night. Thousands of people are without power or running water, some are still trapped on their streets by downed trees. Houses have been damaged or even completely destroyed. Power for many residents won't be back for several weeks despite the heroic efforts of hundreds of local workers and residents, including the National Guard.

I was lucky, I only lost power and water for two days and have only had a relatively small amount of damage to deal with. The further south and east you go into Puna from my place though, the worse things get.

If you are able to donate a little money to help people and families suffering dreadfully after the storm, you can do so via this link:

And now a video posted by a good friend's nephew:

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Well, it's in the public domain now - UKIRT's future

Latest news can be seen here -SFGate news about UKIRT. I'm sure other media sources will pick things up over the next day or so. Local rags picked it up quickly but aren't the places I want to direct people to. Don't know anything about SFGate, but haven't hit a paywall there yet.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Long Goodbye

Eddie, the cat on the right, has been with me almost since the day I arrived in Hawaii. She's approaching 18 years old now and as a kitten wasn't expected to survive her first year. She was 10-weeks old and just skin and bones and clearly the runt of the litter when I adopted her. The person at the Humane Society told me she needed a lot of love and care to survive, and when her adopted sister, Patsy, died just a few weeks later from FIP, the vet said it was likely she had contracted the disease as well and would die young.

Well, over 17 years later she is still with me, nearly as energetic as she ever was, but the big C has been diagnosed and she has little time left. Because of her age there are no realistic treatment options other than to make sure what little time she has left is as comfortable as possible, and, of course, to feel loved.

It's amazing what an animal can do to you. Before I adopted Eddie I did not particularly like cats, I was always a dog lover, but she has been special. Right now, even though she isn't at her best, she's sitting by my feet watching me type these words although she's probably just watching to see if I have more food for her! There's almost been a human-dog-like companionship between us; she waits for me each evening at the front porch to come home from work and follows wherever I go. She'll even sit on command (sometimes). When she knows it's the right time, she comes to me for petting and a little affection, but also knows when I need time alone. But she's always there when that time ends, often with a little kiss on my nose.

In a couple of months this will come to an end. It will be hard but I know I've given her the best life possible and a much longer one than she would have had if we hadn't met.