Monday, 23 November 2009

Views from the tour

Well, I think everyone I took on the tour of Mauna Kea this past Saturday survived; the same number of people that went to the summit also managed to get back down to Hilo and I don't think we left anyone behind. I know one or two people had some issues with the altitude and for that I apologise although there's little I can do about that unfortunately. You never know who's going to do well at 14,000 feet and who won't. I've seen some of the fittest people I've ever met become a drooling and incoherent mess within a couple of hours yet people you think are going to do badly seem completely unaffected. The group I took up did rather well I think!

I didn't have much time to take photos during the visit as I spent most of the time chatting and describing the mountain as well trying to explain what astronomers do with the telescopes at the summit. I hope everyone managed to learn a little about what we do and the environment we work in. Unfortunately due to some summit-level clouds one of the hoped-for highlights didn't happen - opening the domes at sunset. Only one telescope actually opened while we were there whereas the others were all measuring high humidity and therefore couldn't open their protective domes as it would risk water condensing on the cold optical surfaces and electronics.

Still, the views were as stunning as ever but above all I met some new and wonderful friends!

A post-sunset view of Hualalai taken from just outside the UKIRT dome.

Submillimeter Valley and the setting sun, again taken from just outside UKIRT.

Shadows of the summit ridge telescopes on a cinder cone. Taken just outside the CFHT. Left to right the shadows are of the CFHT, Gemini and the UH 88-inch.

We saw most of the places on the mountain I'd recommend to visitors but I do apologise for not being able to locate the light switch inside the JCMT dome! It shows how many times I dare enter that place but I hope the subsequent torch/flashlight-led tour was still enjoyable! Jonathan and Tim, the guys working at the UKIRT that night, were also very gracious in letting us warm up in the control room shortly before we drove back down to a more oxygen-rich environment while answering all of my guests' questions. That was really appreciated!

Some of the tour group enjoying one of those special sunsets from Mauna Kea's summit.


Zuzana said...

Beautiful, the top pictures looks like islands floating in mist...


this is just fascinating - how lucky you are to have such a fantastic location !

kahuku said...

very nice photos, and great of you to lead a tour. On another topic all together, are you still enjoying the Verizon wireless?

Tom said...

Zuzana (Protege) and Elise - thank you and views from the summit are certainly spectacular and it really is a very special place!

Kahuku - I love the Verizon mobile broadband service, how I lived with dialup for 13 years I'll never know! It's not cheap though ($60 per month) and the 5GB monthly cap could be a problem depending what you do. There is a usage monitor but it lags significantly, so if you get close to the limit you're asking for trouble. A friend has pointed me to some monitoring software which I will be trying at some point.

Unknown said...

Great photos, Tom! Particularly of "Submillimeter Valley".

I know you've already seen these, but some of your friends might like to see
my photos
my photos from that night. Particularly the Green Flash.

Tom said...

Eric - I've already posted the link to my friends down here at sea level! I'm still so jealous you got to see the green flash. I saw it once in Australia but have never seen it from Mauna Kea despite years of trying. I want to say beginner's luck but I think I'm fated to never see it...

Good luck with the observing run!


kahuku said...

Yeah, I'm afraid of the 5Gb cap. Do you know how Mobi is in your area? I know that it is relatively new to the Big Island. The coverage map looks good for most of upper Puna, but I'm sure you know everything can be hit or miss depending on the terrain.

Tom said...

Kahuku - I didn't consider Mobi because according to their coverage map the area I live in (Kaloli Point, Hawaiian Paradise Park) is not covered. I'm also told their unlimited coverage isn't really unlimited and they tend to cap people who go over 5GB, but I don't know how true that is. I knew Verizon had relatively good coverage here so opted for them and I get very good speeds for mobile broadband - better than they claim in fact.