Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Where's that bloody laser beam then?

On Sunday evening at around 9:30 we called the Keck observatory to see if they were using their new laser on the Keck 1 telescope. I'll admit it wasn't a purely professional call, I wanted to go outside and take a picture! The answer was promising, the laser was in action (for PC reasons, I'm supposed to steer clear of using the term "firing off the laser"!).

It was a beautiful moonlit evening so I set the camera up on a tripod and took a couple of 60-sec exposures to create a panorama. I couldn't see the laser beam with my naked eye but that's not unusual, the lasers that Subaru, Gemini and the Kecks use aren't actually that bright and are only obvious if you know they're being fired, oops, used, and know where to look. A long exposure photo will, on the other hand, make the laser beam look very bright.

So, why is there no laser beam in the picture above? Three possible reasons: 1) they lied to us, 2) they turned off the laser just as I took the picture or 3) it's just so faint that it's not even visible on a long exposure photograph (the laser on Keck 1 is actually quite a low powered one).

Andrew needs to explain! He was up there that night.

Still, it's a nice panorama of the summit at night lit with a nearly full moon. At the bottom centre you can see the shadow of the UH 88-inch telescope and to the right the shadow of Gemini.

And now for something completely different:

I had a wonderful telephone call this afternoon. It's difficult to describe how happy I feel and what a weight has been lifted. Pam can explain in her own words!

The Big C vs. My Surgeon


Andrew Cooper said...

Both 2 and 3 are possible, but I suspect it was 2, the laser was off at the time you shot the photo. We are in the middle of engineering testing and the laser was on and off all evening long.

The laser was fairly faint to the unaided eye, but quite clear in my 1 and 2 minute exposures. My advantage, I had a radio and was listening to the operator call the laser shutter status while taking pictures.

Zuzana said...

The picture is stunning with or without the laser beam.;) Happy to hear that Pam is doing well.;)

kahuku said...

Oh, I'm so happy for you and Pam. I hope everything gets easier for you this year. Love the new photos.

Tom said...

Andrew - yes, I suspected no. 2 although I'd heard the laser is quite faint. I should have seen something in a 60-sec exposure though

Zuzana and Kahuku - thanks!