Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Crunch time

This blog will be a little quieter over the next few weeks as we work on updating one of the most successful ground-based astronomical instruments in the last couple of decades. The picture above isn't related at all to the work incidentally, it was taken a while back when I was working on another instrument project in another time and space, but I like putting pictures in my blog.

These are always enjoyable times for me, I love this type of work, but the enjoyment is always laced with frustration and exhaustion.

As I mentioned in "Winter's first snowfall?", my night-time schedule has been replaced with a daytime one. I leave home and arrive back in darkness and spend the day battling altitude-induced brain fade while trying to get the instrument to work again. There are one or two other projects that are more easily done at the summit, so I'm working on those as well.

Yesterday was one of the most frustrating days I've ever experienced at the summit. We needed to configure the instrument using its old and dated control software and computers and nothing we did would make it work. I've worked with this instrument for 12 years (17 if you include using it as a student) and know all its foibles, but we didn't even get far enough to experience those again. Nothing we did fixed the problem.

Finally, this afternoon, after cleaning up all the torn-out hair, we got it to work. Yes! Now we get to take data for a couple of days before reconfiguring the damn thing to work with the new control software and computers. I can't wait to find out what's in store for us. Really.

Oh, and it did indeed snow at the weekend. It melted as soon as the sun came up though.

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