Friday, 1 July 2011

Baking at 14,000 feet

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I reported that we had ice on or near our wavefront sensor which would make it impossible to align the telescope, but an overnight bake on our oven fixed the problem, and the image above shows the result. Now I have to figure out the mirror-image results of the N, S, E and W markings and why the E is the wrong way round!

More importantly, the secondary mirror could now be aligned. It turned out I didn't have to make any large adjustment at all, our engineers reinstalled it perfectly. The bright circle in the middle, which is the secondary, has to be centered between those bars, and it was almost spot on first go. In addition, our 1-2.5 micron camera, UFTI, is back on the telescope and working perfectly and while all this is going on a filter problem with WFCAM seems to have been fixed or at least a work around has been found. All this in four days.

At the end of the afternoon I fully expected us to still have some problems, you have to remember it's been 30 months since we were last in this mode (Cassegrain) and everything has been updated since then. Thanks to a wonderful group of technicians, engineers and software people we left the mountain late this afternoon with everything working perfectly.

Given all this work is for a couple of weeks of night time observing while WFCAM is undergoing planned maintenance, the effort everyone has put in is phenomenal. Despite all the cutbacks and uncertainty about our future, we still have the most incredibly talented and dedicated staff. After fifteen years working with them I'm still in awe of what they can do.

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