Wednesday, September 26, 2007


It's that time of year again. The time when everybody bends over and begs the old boys in charge of the big glass for a handout. Without their say-so, nobody gets to be an astronomer. At least, nobody gets to use their telescopes. And what is an astronomer without a telescope? I still don't know.....

A magnetic-field map of a cool star.

Some more squiggles.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

From Kauai

We woke up early after a sticky-no sleep night at the hostel. I don't know what my deal was, but I was way too warm to sleep. Around midnight, I decided to try to sleep on the concrete floor because it was colder and under the window. That worked a little bit. I got a couple hours down there and then was cold enough to go to the bed for another 2 hours from maybe 4-6. Rough night. But whatever. It was free.

We drove to Koke'e park, where you can overlook the north-shore cliffs. Waimea canyon on the way up was spectacular. It was really pretty, but the fog rolled in and it was raining a little bit.
On the way back down, the sky was clearer and the sun had moved overhead so the view of the canyon made for some excellent views.

We drove down this little side road towards a military site and got to see a pretty nice view of one of the valleys. There was a goat on the cliff....
We then drove down and around to the end of the road on the west side at Polihale beach. It was a huge beach with hardly any people. I got to body-surf some small waves for about an hour. An excellent way to spend the afternoon!!
We then headed back towards town, stopped by a blowhole and some lithified sand dunes at Po'ipu and caught the plane home around 9pm. Two wonderful days!

Monday, September 24, 2007

To Kauai

I finally went to Kaua'i!! Rahul and I had found the $18 airfare way too cheap to pass up, especially since neither of us had been to Kaua'i. I think this was a most excellent use of funds. He's an online poker player, who pulls in way more than I do (and it makes me feel like a sucker for working so hard), so he could take the days off. I'm still a lowly grad-student, and my boss is off in Switzerland. So I skipped too.... Besides, I'd just spent a long hard week in solitary confinement work-prison, I mean observing, so I felt justified. It's a beautiful place. Very green and open. Chill.

We took a morning flight over and the view of the Waianae was pretty nice.

We drove up north first, stopping at a lighthouse/bird-sanctuary.
We then hiked down a small trail to the "queens bath" - this little cut in the rocks that's a very well protected swimming hole. It was really cool. Great view. It's up in Princeville, which is aparently where a bunch of dot-com millionaires retired. Very posh looking "outpost" with just shops, a golf-course, and nice apartments/houses. Somewhat fake and manicured, but that's what rich people like right?
We finished the day up near the end of the road, at the start of the Kalalau trail. There's an awesome beach park right there. It was packed, and I definately felt like one of the tourist hoardes, but the view of the cliffs was sick, and the barrier reef protecting the beach made the swimming great.
We were staying at a hostel back down in Kapa'a. They had messed up the reservation and put us in a smaller room, not the one we paid for, so they gave it to us for free! So, for the day, that's $15 for half a flight, $10 for my share of the car, $9 for gas, and $15 for my half of the pizza that was lunch and dinner. Damn nice!! I don't think it will get much better than that without having your tax money fly me around to work somewhere.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


My last night up here had an incredible sunset. I froze outside, but I couldn't miss it. Of course, the humidity was high and the cirrus were thick, killing my telescope time, but ok. I'll live. It is somewhat disappointing that I've been up here for 5 nights and I've only managed to get 6 hours of data....

The shadow of Haleakala.

The tuna can.... The bane of my existance. The social life killer. The fat-dave maker. The data collector. The star-gazer. The thesis-enabler. The reason I have a job. The 50-million dollar facility I've called home for over 100 nights. So many things wrapped up in a tuna can....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fortune smiles again - the scopes on Mauna Kea, the 14000ft volcano next door, are fogged out and I'm here high and dry. How often does that happen?? Usually that extra 3000ft means that I'm in the fog while they're getting good pictures. The sunset was spectacular, and I got to do some more near-infra-red timelapsing of the Big Isle.

I thought this was neat - a single shot from the timelapse sequence:
And then 100 of them "stacked" to smear out the clouds....


I'm shocked and amazed! The fog has lifted and the cirrus have disappeared! I managed to get a full 6 hours on the sky tonight. It's been great. The last couple days have been super frustrating. At night, you can see through the 'humidity' - there's a thin ground layer that's usually not even proper fog - it's just 90% humidity and you can't let bare metal out in that. It's made for some good time-lapse, but it feels like such a waste to be over here and stuck in a kitchen... And I guess I've been a little stir-crazy too. Not much to do up here but work on a paper and proposals.

Moonset timelapse:
The fog swirling around the summit:

I managed to do something really neat yesterday - I applied a rotation to my data and basically matched other data I had from a "real" instrument on Mauna Kea. It's a good sanity check.
And then I found a nasty little issue - the continuum polarization I measure depends on the focus.... It shouldn't. At least, not this much.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Humid night

Again, frustration..... half an hour after I start my shift, the fog rolls in and kills it. I got 5 stars good, but I had hoped for more like 5 hours, not .5 - winter must be on it's way. At least the sunset was pretty spectacular and I got some nice near-IR shots of the Big Island before heading over to the telescope. Better luck tomorrow maybe.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kaho'olawe in the NIR

I'm up on the summit for another week. I was supposed to be observing tonight from 8p-4a but I've got horrible luck. The mount is broken and I can't drive the telescope, which kills observing period. But on top of that there's huge fat cirrus clouds blocking everything. And then there's the fog that rolled in around 10pm. I hope I do a little better tomorrow....

The sun peeking through the thickness....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Paddle to the Nut

Today, Liz wanted me to go with her to the nut to keep her company on a work-saturday. This was all fine and good, but I'm not allowed on the island. I can't take the ferry. A co-worker who lived two docks down said we could borrow kayaks, an outrigger, or a longboard and just paddle out. It's not that far off shore. Liz was ok on the outrigger. However, I was not expecting there to be a super-tippy hardcore kayak instead of the normal sit-on-top ocean kayak I'm used to. I fell off twice just trying to get past the dock. I gave up pretty quickly and grabbed the long board. We started to paddle out. Liz was getting blown around by the wind in the outrigger, and I was getting chop in my face. The real nasty part was the bare fiberglass. I noticed a rash up my left arm. There was this patch of bare fiberglass that was really pissing my skin off. I was unable to wear a shirt for the day..... The ride back in was much better. Liz paddled, and I took the outrigger. I think both our shoulders are sore as hell, but going with the wind with the waves at your back is sooo much easier. And I paddled Liz for a third of the distance. Outriggers are good for that at least.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Maunawili Falls Hike

Liz and I headed over to Rahul's place for a windward day. Liz got all caffinated and decided to do some html - I showed her that it was super easy to make a webpage, and she geeked out for the day. Rahul and I took a break and went to the Maunawili Falls trail. I'll get this one linked from the hike page soon.... Anyways, it was short, sweet, and nice. I think this one gets added to the tour package.


Pali lookout.
People at the falls - the pool is really deep and some local kids (skipping school like I was skipping work) were jumping 20-30ft off various rocks.
The river.
The view from Rahul's place is always fabulous.....

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I bet you didn't know that hikes in Hawaii require fending off aggrivated Rhino's and avioding the flying TRex.....

Steve had fun with these.....

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Kuaokala & A Three-Corners Attempt

I wanted to try out a new trail - the Three-Corners from Kuaokala. I had no idea that it would be as long as it was. A big group decided to brave the recon with me - Adrian, Steve, Hai+Lu, Joe, Jeff, & Jiggles. Hai's intermittent GPS connection said we did 16-18 miles. He didn't load the topo, so we were guessing at paths the whole time.....

We combined the Kuaokala trail, the 4WD road to Peacock flats, the Mokuleia trail, to the "end of trail" sign of Kuaokala. You get a permit from the DLNR and drive up to the north-west corner of the island to the satellite tracking station road. We started hiking around 8:30am and didn't finish till 6:30pm, 15 minutes before sunset. It was a very long day.....

A topo map with our path: We did the Kuaokala trail before noon with some awesome views. We spent a bunch of time covering the 4WD road and wasted about 30 minutes on the red "paved road" that I thought went up to the ridgeline. Unfortunately, we were supposed to go down first..... Joe, Adrian, and Jiggles turned around at this point, and Steve, Hai+, Jeff and I made for the Corners. We managed to find the end of the Kuaokala trail after the hunter "shanty", but were out of time to do the corners. We ended up following a fence-line along the ridge for a little ways before coming back out onto the Mokuleia forest trail.
A rough guess at our path on a google screenshot. Makua valley is the one on the left. We almost made it to see Makaha.....

Makua valley in the evening from Kuaokala.
My dirty feet.......

The north shore from along the 4WD road with Haleiwa harbor in the middle.
North-shore wide....
Intrepid hikers.
The "end of the trail" that marks the beginning of the three-corners trail..... Hawaiian signs.
The second (south) side of Makua valley.
The northern part of the Waianae range.
The beginning of the Kuaokala trail.
Climbing a nub.
Makua valley comes into view.
The northern part of Makua valley