Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Pictures from that last mountain trip: Mauna Kea observatories

Just to be clear, these pictures weren't taken on my final trip to the summit, I know I'll be up there again, but were taken during my last trip as a support scientist at UKIRT last week. Nor am I leaving UKIRT - I've just moved into a bit of a different job there. I just couldn't think of a title that said all of that succinctly or in a way anyone not familiar with the place would understand. On the other hand, I don't have any more summit trips planned for a very long time, so this might be the last bunch of photos you'll see from the summit of Mauna Kea in this blog for quite a while.

Well, unless I get bored and start re-posting old pictures. Don't think that isn't a possibility. My apologies in advance if I start doing that, but it'll simply mean I haven't figured out how to take pictures at sea level.

So here goes:

Keck 2 at sunset - actually quite a few minutes after sunset and for once they decided not to start rotating and opening the dome halfway through a long-exposure shot I was taking. Those bloody inconsiderate Keck telescope operators!

Subaru is open for a change. They've been closed for ages this year it seems although ask anyone there and they'll say it was for heavy engineering work on the top-end. A likely excuse. There's one thing I haven't seen before though and that's the strange metallic looking thing at the bottom of the open slit. I suspect it's a wind blind. Most observatories have them, they're used to help block a strong wind and prevent telescope shake. Or perhaps it's just to prevent us seeing the party going on inside the dome. No, it's the former I'm sure!

My old friend, the Gemini North Observatory. Like Keck they always try to ruin my photos by suddenly rotating the dome halfway through a shot of mine. Maybe someone passed on the message this time because just like Keck they kept still this time. It's a stunning telescope and always prompts lots of "oohs and aahhs" from the visiting tourists when it opens, especially on occasions like this when everything is open and one can see the telescope inside the dome.

I have many good friends working there and am jealous they get to keep visiting the summit.

The CFHT always looks great after the sun has gone down, especially with the Earth's shadow behind it. This is likely the next telescope on Mauna Kea to switch to remote observing. In fact I thought they'd beat us to it. This observatory has always been considerate, they rarely move the dome when I take a picture although the tourists can be a bit of a pain, what with them walking about and all that. And when they aren't in the picture there's always an inconsiderate astronomer walking along the catwalk intent on ruining my shot.

Finally, the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) complete with what's left of the Earth's shadow. It wouldn't be correct to call this a twin of UKIRT but the primary mirror is only a little smaller than UKIRT's and it's also an infrared-dedicated telescope. There aren't many places like that around on the planet. They tend to concentrate more on Solar System objects than we do though, understandable really given NASA's interests.

Well, that's it for now but there are a few more photos to come. None of them are my best just like these ones I'm afraid, but at least for me are quite important. Maybe in 20 or 30 years I'll look back at these and either reminisce with a tear in my eye or just laugh at how bad my pictures were in those days.


Andrew Cooper said...

I'll pass along your comments to the Keck operators. I for one am on the summit for a night. But it has been a quiet night so far, with high humidity preventing opening. There is hope that may change.


Great ! Thax for sharing these gorgious images.

Tom said...

Andrew - I can insult them now I won't be sharing a table with them for dinner at HP!

Seriously - a great bunch of people who are always fun to share banter with before the night shift and I'll miss that.

In case you weren't aware, Joel was once an operator at UKIRT and was there on one of my runs where I got much of the data I needed for my PhD!


Tom said...

No problem Jagdish, I'm really pleased you like the pictures, and I see from your profile you do cricket commentary.

Now, if I had the choice, that's a job I would *love* to do! Boy, I miss cricket so much.