Saturday, 12 February 2011

UKIRT: before and after

These are a couple more spectacular photos by Paul Hirst taken from inside the UKIRT dome. As I mentioned in my previous post Paul used to work with me at UKIRT but has since moved to a position at Gemini although since their northern hemisphere office is literally a few yards from ours, I still see him quite often!

This is "before" although that's not entirely accurate (WFCAM had arrived when this shot was taken), but shows the telescope in "Cassegrain Mode". If you click on the picture you'll see a lot more detail. The scientific instruments, plus the guider and wavefront sensor are hidden out of sight, below the primary mirror, at the cassegrain focus. (Blogger's spell checker is suggesting I change cassegrain to casserole by the way - don't think I will).

Today the situation is very different for reasons I just don't have the energy to write about now, but have written about them in the past. Now we do wide-field near-infrared imaging using WFCAM, and have to admit we do it rather well. And now we do it with no-one at the summit. It means no more Mauna Kea sunset shots from me, but does save a lot of money. The telescope looks very different as well:

WFCAM is actually positioned on top of the primary mirror. This is an extremely unusual arrangement for a major telescope but in order to do wide-field imaging the instrument needed to be put at the prime focus, so this is where it ended up and is still there tonight. As I write this it's observing our Galactic plane and taking data astronomers will use for decades to come and will likely launch many careers.

Well, there you go, anything to disguise the fact that I took the most boring and uninteresting photos on Laupahoehoe Point today and just can't find a way to post any picture I took and make it look good. So thought you might like Paul's instead!

PS. Looking from the outside, UKIRT looks so much more serene - you wouldn't know what's going on in the inside!

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