Friday, December 29, 2006

Going Home......

finally, i get to go home. 10pm tomorrow. it's 5:20am and i've just finished my last night of observing this week. it's just sleep and driving tomorrow. don't worry, i'll be leaving again tuesday, but at least i'll get to be home for the new-year holiday. i don't think that next week will be that stressful either. the last three nights have been incredible up here. i have soooo much data now. i think the results will be neat too. i'm not exactly sure about them yet, but it looks like there's a highly variable signal in there that might say something neat about the stuff around stars. maybe i'll earn all the travel with this...... at any rate, i'm fat, sick, and tired. i need to go to sea level where there's moisture in the air and i can go run around. how nice that will be.......

Judy's Pic

Judy took this awesome pic of Maui (West & Haleakala), Lanai (left), and Ka'ho'olawe (right). What a clear day! This would have been awesome to see......

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Zodiacal Light

In the mornings, when I'm walking back from the telescope to go to bed, the Zodiacal light is super bright. This is the sun's debris disk. A bunch of particles orbiting the sun, reflecting/scattering light to you. The light follows the ecliptic plane - the plane of the Earth (and other planets) orbits. It looks like a really bright cloud once your eyes adjust to it.

As the light passes through the atmosphere, it gets reddened (just like the setting sun).

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Hike to Holua for XMas

Since there is no chimney up at the summit, and I don't really see a fat guy in a rocket-ship magic-sled flying around in my timelapses, Liz and I decided to risk losing free presents dropped from god's errand boy to go on a hike into one of the prettiest places on Earth. We hiked down to the crater floor (down switchbacks, 8000-6500ft). Then, I took her and some cool people we met into the "Lava Tube". It really is a lava tube - these caverns that form when a specific type of lava flows (pahoehoe). The walls had the frozen drips of the molten rock all over in a very neat pattern. The rock has been coated by 1000s of years of water flowing down the walls (carbonaceous crust?).
For my brother..... if only I had a fur-patch a tenth the size of his......

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sharpest Image Ever!!

I just found an awesome way to get really sharp, high-contrast B+W shots out of my timelapses. I take all the .jpg files and I stack them with that IDL routine I wrote. Since each .JPG file is 8 bits, meaning the numbers range from 0 to 255 (2^8), it only has 255 shades of grey. By adding 100 images to gether, now the full range is 0 to 2550, which is 100 times the shades! This gets me a high S/N, high color-range image that I can process. Then, since the files are encoded as Red-Green-Blue, meaning that the image is a 3-by-Xpixels-by-Ypixels array [3, 1536, 1024], I can just pick the red channel as the clearest.

Just to show the difference, here's the stacked but unprocessed Blue image......

And Red image......
The neat thing was finding a FITS-file reader for photoshop. Astronomers use their own weird file format. It's a lot like jpg's, tiff's, pngs, gif's, etc but it requires it's own custom readers, just like every other image format. The nice thing about fits files are that there's no compression. The numbers can run from 0 to 25500000 if you have that much data. They're huge, typically 100MB, but there's a ton of information in them. The various space-agencies made this software (fits-liberator) for or photoshop so that you can import and play with the .fits files and then compress them as you like.

After doing a bit of image math (log scaling) and tweaking the image, I've got the sharpest shot of the Big Island, taken from Maui, that I think I've ever made...... You can see Waipio valley, resolve the telescopes on the summit, see the Kohala coast, and see the different bands of lava on the mountain slopes.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Day spent sleeping

I didn't finish calibrating the IR side till about 9:30am. That hurt. I took half an hour to go wake up Liz and catch the sunrise. I know she hates early mornings, but these are worth it.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A good start to a long evening

Since the shutter was broken on one camera, I'm using the IR spectrograph tonight. It was a total panic getting it running. There was a broken PCI card that took an hour to find and swap out.... Looks like I'll be up till dawn calibrating because of it! But, it was good to get the system up and running. This is part of my thesis, supposedly. I think that I can now officially say that I want no part in this part of the spectrograph. At least the sunset was awesome, again. I've never seen it this clear and dry during winter for this long. Liz's weather-curse is gone. For this trip anyways.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Today was pretty nice - some good sleep, a bit of prep for tomorrow, but mostly a nice drive down to a beach, good dinner to celebrate the solstice, and some very good news. Down at Baldwin beach, there were these crazy mudcracks:

I'm going to use the SOAR telescope through CTIO in Chile for a few weeks in April, and I'll be presenting a bunch of stuff at a conference in Puerto Rico in July. Sweet. Busy, but sweet. It's back on to the night-shift for tomorrow so probably nothing interesting but code and reading till late Saturday.......

While this was all going on, Liz went throught the cabinets and discovered these really nasty cans of pineapple that had burst. I cleaned out a lot of the stuff up here, but I didn't do these. I found koolaid from 1978, Campbell soup from the early 80's through the late 90's, and lots of random old useless stuff. Liz found the winner. The can had sprayed black goo all over the back of the cabinets. I've taken it as a clear sign that nobody really cleans up or cares for this place. I don't think anybody has stayed up here like I have for a decade. This needed to be done very very badly......

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Very Tired Day

After the camera junk was taken care of, we went back to the summit and just relaxed. Watched two movies (Syriana, Geisha) in a row and drank wine..... I don't think I've sat that still on the summit in a very long time. Maybe it was only getting 3 hours of sleep that day. But, I've never seen the slopes of Haleakala that clear for that long. It's been 3 days of nothing. Normally there's a blanket at 5000ft. Beautiful weather for being up here.

Fried Camera?

An hour before I was supposed to be on the sky (using the telescope) around 1am Wednesday morning, I noticed that I couldn't get the shutter to work on the Pixis camera I've been using (as a spare). After some testing, and noticing a really horrible smell, I took off the front cover and found a bunch of goo around the solenoid that opens the shutter.

I called the east-coast manufacturer around 4am (9am EST) and found out that these solenoids fry sometimes. Notice the raised ring in a flat piece near the middle of the image? I thought that was normal but the solenoid had melted this ring as it cooked. Damn.

So, this little piece of metal is keeping me from using the $3000/hour telescope time. The company was awesome though - it's shipping me overnight a "spare" that I can use while they fix it, and they're sending somebody in over the holiday period to do the fixing. Sweet. The stars I'm watching are setting 4 minutes earlier every night, and while that seems small, every week I get one less data-set to argue about. And what is academic life but sitting around arguing about what your pictures mean? If I don't have pictures to argue about, I may as well be doing something else and getting paid real money to do it.......

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Timelapse Again

It feels good to be doing the timelapse again. I'm going to be trying something new - I'm going to be doing longer-timeline stuff. I think I've got plenty of the shorter lapses. At any rate, I've been meaning to catch longer-timeline changes like storms, changing inversion altitudes, cirrus movement, and other random stuff. I'll be updating my website too......

Sliding Sands Hike

Liz and I slept really really late and couldn't do a big hike, but we did go down into the crater to the flats around 8000ft. It was a little strange/interesting to think that somebody had died two days ago, near where these pics were taken. It definately made you think about your pulse. It does race up here when you exert yourself. Actually, it's a weird kind of exertion. Your muscles never feel that tired but your heart and lungs are racing. I usually end up coughing or weak-feeling after I go jogging or climb the trails quickly. It's definately a strange feeling. Tons of fun though when you go back down to sea level and you can run forever.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Halemau'u Hike

Liz and I took a walk out to one of the lower crater lookout points. The weather has been awesome the last couple nights. No clouds in the crater. Very cool. We chilled on this point for an hour or so before going down to hang out with Judy in her new apartment in Ha'iku. It was a much needed, relaxing day.

Tropical Cyclone Map

Liz found this map of the 1985-2005 tropical cyclones on wikipedia. If you download the high-res pic from their site, you can see Iniki slamming in to Kauai. This map is awesome.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hanging out at the summit

Liz and I had to hang out up at the summit cause she couldn't clear her sinuses - the sunset was awesome.

Here's the tuna-can where I spend hours and hours.

High-altitude Death

Tonight was interesting, in a strange, bringing-up-memories kind of way. Around 4pm some people started banging on the door. Somebody had just fallen dead in their tracks on the Sliding Sands trail, near here, probably of a heart-attack. They needed to call in the emergency at the observatory because there wasn't a phone nearby. Some kind of death happens a few times a year or so here. Some older guy doing the down-the-mountain bike died just a few months ago too. Weird....

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Maui Sunrise

An awesome sunrise. There's some awesome color up here in the winter..... Usually I'm asleep by dawn but this project has been keeping me up later than usual. I should try to wake up for these up here more often. It's really amazing.