Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Panorama.....

The big island at sunset..... standing 14000 feet above sea level, while I'm at 10000. These are some of the most deceptive "peaks" you'll ever see. Some of the sharpest peaks around only rise 7000 feet from their base. They are so gradual.... you think you could walk up them in a day, but Mauna Kea takes 3.

Kitchens and Code

Day two of my nights on the summit. I decided on my way up here that I have had enough of living too cheap on the summit. I went to costo and bought pots, pans, tupperware, oil, pillows, etc. Home-ish stuff since I'll have spent 50 nights up here by the time this year is over...... The pillows were junk and the kitchen needed some serious redoing. I also turned the bedroom into something more like a "cave". The windows face southwest and it's hard to sleep past 10am because the ripped up and shredded blinds let direct sunlight onto the bed. So much for sleeping during the day. I duct-taped a bunch of old towels to the windows!! They keep the draft out and the sun! Awesome. Yesterday, I actually slept in till 3pm!!! I don't think I've ever felt this awake while observing. Only 3 cups of coffee! Anyways, it feels a bit nicer up here than before. Liz and I will be spending some xmas vacation over here so that makes it even better.....

While I was observing, I finally got part of that "color calibration" done and I tweaked my software a bit: I can finally put a bunch of data from different nights on the same plot. One step closer to telling a story about it (and publishing those oh-so-precious papers).

Zoom in on the "absorption trough"

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Color calibration? Only on Maui

I'm headed back to Maui again in the morning until Thursday. My major project, other than looking at my two stars, is to calibrate the wavelengths (colors) seen by my spectrograph. I take pictures of these lamps to do it:

The these lamps have gasses in them that have been well characterized (Th, Ar). We know all the emission lines that come from them. It's a lot like looking at a Neon sign - knowing that it's got neon in it, and knowing what light neon emits you can tell if your camera is taking the right picture because it's supposed to be a certain shade of red. Anyways, I get a picture like this:

My job is to write software that finds the bright lines on each part of the image, and gives a proper color (wavelength) to them. I'm going to need lots of coffee to focus on this at 4am.....

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Liz and I spent the day hanging out. I don't think we've done that in a very long time now..... Funny how that goes when you're both in school/working full time at different hours. It was nice to have the break, before I go back to Maui again for another week.....

Thursday, November 23, 2006


We went down to the beach from Billy's place after turkey. It was really nice to have a low-key day. I had just spent a full week working nights at the telescope, off island. I never leave the summit, and if I'm not sleeping or eating, I'm writing code or driving the telescope. It's exhausting and having a chill day was awesome.

Off Sharks Cove.

The Kaena point cliffs off Mokuleia.

Emu Pit

We spent turkey-day on the North Shore with Billy again. He has the "Emu-pit", and this year was the best year ever. An Emu-pit is a big hole in the ground that steam-cooks things. It's a Hawaiian thing. You have a fire over basalt rocks in the morning to get the rocks red-hot. Chop down a bananna tree and put pieces of it over the rocks - the wet wood steams the meat. Then you put down the meat wrapped in ti-leaves (to protect the meat) and then cover the pit with a wet burlap cloth to seal the steam in. We also use a tarp to keep a good seal. This year, the seal was so good (dirt around the outside) that the tarp puffed up like a drum. Pressure-cooked!! I didn't get back from Maui in time to chop down the Bannana tree's but it was fun anyways. We convinced Tanner (Aren/Erin's kid) that the turkey might still be alive and we might have to catch it when we opened the Emu. Messing with kids is pretty fun sometimes.....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Appendix 1?

My laptop has been majorly screwed up for a few months now. I finally got around to doing a complete reformat/reinstall which wiped my hard-drive, only to find out that it's a logic-board error and the laptop had to go back for hardware work. Major pain. Anyways, I took the lack-of-laptop on the summit (I had a Windows loaner) to work on my thesis. Writing up the basic theory of if seemed like a good place to start. It will only be an appendix, or something way at the end, but at least I understand the theory of it a bit better....... It's still in draft but maybe it will be 15 pages or so.....

Friday, November 17, 2006

New Metal

I'm on maui again and I think the only real eventful thing was getting this new part for the spectrograph. I've got a "dekkar". It replaces a fancy piece of cardboard & tape with something approaching professional/accurate. Woo hoo! I'll be up late again through Tuesday....

Monday, November 13, 2006

19 days to go.....

The BJJ Tourney is in 19 days. It looks like I'll be in the intermediate no-gi division again, since they're trying to keep people in the same ranks for the Triple Crown competition. Basically, there are 3 tournaments over the year. The person with the most points in each rank in gi and no-gi, regardless of weight, gets the belt. I'll be competing with blue-belt's in the gi division, and with intermediates in the no-gi division. The thing with BJJ is that there really aren't that many people above blue belt. It's not like TKD where you get your black belt guarenteed in 3 years, just for showing up to class. The first year or two in BJJ is spent at white belt. Then another 1-4 at blue-belt. Then you're up in the open divisions since the next belt, purple, and up are all instructing ranks. There's a really wide variation between schools too. Some give out a blue belt in 6 months. Too bad those guys get their asses kicked. I think ours is the slowest. I know people who have been grappling for 8 years and are still blue belts. There's a reason for a few of them, but still..... Anyways, I've been hanging out around 165lbs. The light-weight division is 149-161 lbs and I've been able to get down to 158 for most competitions. We'll see how this one goes. Let the training begin!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Beachy Weekend

Saturday was low key. I was exhausted from training..... But Sunday was fun. Liz n I met up with some of the "newbies" to show them around Hanauma. The visibility sucked. Oh well. Two of the newbies were too cool to hang out with us, and had music to play, so they went home. The other, Sonnett, came with us to the north shore. The snorkeling was much better up there anyways.......

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Orion Nebulae

I found a new Spitzer/Hubble image that's just crazy. The different colors trace different gasses. Oxygen, sulfer, carbon-rich molecules, etc. It's an awesome view of a near-by star-forming region.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Windy nights, clear days

I'm up late again at the telescope. It's exciting knowing that I've got some more good images coming, but the riducu-wind hurt a lot. I'm about 4x less efficient than I should be, flux wise. AEOS is a weird telescope because the housing (dome) is more like a tuna-can than an actual dome. The telescope is fully exposed to the wind when the sides are down. The image bounced around like crazy. We put the tunacan walls up around midnight when my star was overhead, and it made the problem basically go away. Nice! Anyways, I think my reduction package is about 40 pages of code now and it's making pretty good plots. Maybe I'll have a good story to tell come March.....

And.... Driving down from the summit this morning, maui was ridiculously clear! The mega-wind kept the whole eastern face clear..... It's really deceptive - it will take me an hour and a half to drive to the city on the right side of the picture.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Good Morning

The clouds cleared by dawn, but not in time for me to do anything useful at the telescope......

Friday, November 03, 2006

Maui, Part 18?

I've been writing up a log of my observations for my thesis and records. It's somewhat amazing. I've been over here something like 20 times for 40-50 nights on the telescope. Maybe this isn't surprising to some, but if you knew what astronomers really did, you'd be surprised. Most faculty write proposals so that they can get 1-3 nights of time each semester. They spend the rest of their time 1) processing it, 2) arguing with other people about it, 3) giving talks about how wonderful they are, or 4) writing more proposals for another 1-3 nights. It's funny to me that I've had so many nights over here. Basically everybody at the IfA is into galaxies/cosmology. Not all, but most. I think only 2 or 3 do stellar spectroscopy. This instrument is built for high-resolution on bright targets. Basically it was so broke before (and somewhat still) that nobody wanted it, and nobody paid to have an instrument person fix/maintain it. Result: I get 50 nights in 3 years when most grad students get just a few. Go figure.

Anyways, the weather is junk (high clouds in those pictures are great for art, horrible for astronomy). I'll be spending another all-nighter writing code. Goodie.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Busy Week

It seems like life has been moving very quickly latley. Software, training, travel, and houses. I don't think I've had a moment to sit still in a long time.

Liz's cousins, Aren and Erin, moved out Wednesday and we went looking at houses Thursday. I'll be moving to the windward side soon (Kailua/Kaneohe). It was interesting to get to look at how different people lived, what it costs, and what potentials there are. There were some older rent-machines, architectural oddities (walk through the bathroom to get into the house?), and awesome but expensive places. More to come in the next week(s).

In addition to the software and houses, I'm training for the Dec 2nd BJJ tourney. I think I'm out of the running for this year's triple-crown since I missed the August competition, and I've got zero chance of medaling in the No-Gi division since I'm in the advanced bracket now. The crown is won by number of medals in a given belt/weight class. I got gold/silver in the first tourney in gi/no-gi, but if anyone who medaled in the first tourney went and medaled in the second, we're tied going in to the third with me having basically no chance in the no-gi division. Anyways, lots of running, reading, etc to do.

I've been writing a lot of code to produce plots like this:

There's a ton of processing that still needs to be written into my "reduction pipeline" before I start arguing about disks around stars. It's nice that I'm going to Maui so much though - I've actually got a lot of things working over there and I've got a pile of data for my thesis. The short story is that after a bunch of optical and mechanical fixes, I get about 4 times more light per picture than I did before. This means that I can do the same science in a 1 minute exposure now as opposed to a 4 minute exposure before. That's huge. It's like the difference between using the 8-10m scopes (biggest in the world) and AEOS. I can't believe what a bit of sweat and agony (mentally anyways) can do for an instrument. There's still a ton to do to make it better (fix CCD, tip/tilt corrector, etc) but at this point, I'm stoked. Totally stoked. I'll just be flying over here for 5 days or so, every other week, till April or so.... Oh well right.