Thursday, December 27, 2007

Calibration Paper Proofs!!

I got the proofs for my calibration paper today. Woo hoo. Looks like it will be published in January. That's good news! Especially considering that this paper combined with my first 2006 instrument paper is chapters 2-5.....

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Last Day on the Mountain

So I made a discovery that made all the difference for this trip. There's an archive where you can download other people's data as long as it's more than a year old. It turns out that there's a few snapshots of the stars I wanted to look at in there. It was a royal pain moving gigabytes of data around. It had to go from a websie to my laptop to my cfht computer to the summit, get processed there, moved back to the cfht computer and finally moved back to the laptop. But it kept things interesting, and I've managed to salvage a section of my thesis entitled "ESPaDOnS vs HiVIS". I can compare results!! The weather killed my run, but I still got something useful.....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Last Summit Night

Tonight looked promising. The sunset was awesome and humidity was dropping. It did end up being a good night, but I didn't see any of it. There was snow and ice on the dome and we had to test the dome. When we opened the dome shutter nothing happened, but when we closed it a bunch of little ice chunks came in with the snow. Totaly unsafe. If the primary mirror had not been covered, it would have been damaged. That's no way to go observing. Another canceled night....

Monday, December 24, 2007

Another night in the fog

This XMas eve I'll be staying at HP because we got 3 inches of snow and the summit is in the fog. Bad weather strikes again!! Oh well. I got a decent amount of sleep and I'm ready for a night working on my thesis.... Hopefully tomorrow's better. Maybe I'll have some good baby-jeebus luck or something.

A Foggy Night on Mah-nah Key-ah

Maybe I've lived here too long, but it's hard to not laugh a little bit at the twangy mainlander accents when tourists pronounce the place-names here. Tons of that at the visitor center...

Anyways, the weather was really strange tonight. There was a stable not-quite-lenticular thing over the summit and very thin, stringy fog forming over the ridge and blowing over the telescope. The air was completely saturated and all the telescope domes were covered in frost. There were icicles hanging from the catwalk railing.... The sunset was spectacular and there were barely any clouds around the island. You could see Hilo, Waimea, and Kona very clearly. It was just totally frustrating because there was no inversion layer to cap the moisture so the summit was totally wet. We gave up around 4am and drove down. It's pretty frustraing knowing that I'll only get maybe 30 hours of time on this instrument in a year, and weather can take it all from you.... I really understand why all major telescopes are going to "que" mode as quickly as they can. No scientist goes to the telescope. Your program is done when the weather is right by scientists and engineers employed by the telescope. No risk of fog....

The quas-ticular cloud over the Keck's, IRTF, and Subaru.
Halo around the moon! The fog would form in thin sheets as it blew over the ridge and telescope making a perfect setup for the halo.
The moon rising in Mauna Kea's shadow.
Sunset colors.
Full moon from the summit.
Waimea and Haleakala off in the distance.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Stone-House Afternoon

The weather is pretty interesting. There's no inversion layer so there's clouds blowing all over the place. I took a few hours and hiked a little hill near-by to do some photos and timelapse. One thing I kept noticing was big groups of jacked-up trucks (locals) driving up to the summit to grab snow for xmas. We have white christmas here too.... On the drive up to the telescope, we saw a guy on a hill near the summit riding his boogie-board down the hill sledding. Some trucks were driving down the mountain with a snoman on the hood (yes, blocking their view of the road). Others had little pine-trees stuck in the snow in the bed of the truck. Very holiday!

Snow convoy.
Mauna Loa from the hill (NIR).
Hale Pohaku and Mauna Kea.
The other side of Mauna Kea.
Hualalai - the kona-side volcano.
Little cinder cones at lower elevation.
Snowy Mauna Loa across the saddle.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hale Pohaku, Mauna Kea

I'm going to be working nights on Mauna Kea over baby-jeezus day. I've got three nights on CFHT to do. Not all the time is mine, but I've got to stay up there the entire time and do other people's programs when I'm not doing my own. I spent tonight at Hale Pohaku. I stayed up late working on my thesis while acclimatizing. Hale Pohaku is a lot nicer than Mees, but I don't have my own kitchen. That's the only drawback. But I'm not complaining. I did get to do a night lapse, and the full moon makes things look great from out here. Both mountains are snow-capped and it looks really neat. Very not tropical. The summit was in the fog the whole time, but down here we were doing fine. There was no wind at all which makes photography easy. Since most of my camera gear is now gone, I've got to rely on spare parts.... It will be interesting seeing what I can get out of this trip photo-wise. The weather forecast isn't great, but I should at least get Tuesday night.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Funny Stuff at the IfA

john et al. did a neat little survey.... it's truely geeky. done in apj preprint style typeset in LaTeX just like a technical journal. classy.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Maui Damage Assessment

I spent the day doing a "damage assessment" on the spectrograph over on Maui. It wasn't really classified this way, but Maui was hit by a hurricane last week. The winds on the island were clocked above 70mph sustained, 4" of rain per hour for several hours, and massive damage all over. On the summit, our gagues clock-out at 122mph and they were all spiked high. I've heard estimates of 150mph for a significant period. The metal grates people walk on around the telescope (the catwalk) were blown off. Solid metal grating.... no surface area.... blown off.... The big problem was the high-voltage line snapping and sending a giant surge through the site. Some buildings had most of their hardware totally fried. One generator burst into flames. It was a giant mess. My observing run this week was totally canceled and I might not be able to go again until the end of January. Point being, we expected a lot of stuff to be fried so we went up to check the spectrograph.

I left on a 7am flight and headed up the mountain with Jeff, John, and Les. The totally amazing thing is that everything works fine. Aparently, most of the hardware at my building was pretty well insulated and didn't see any surge. So we spent the day trying to install some new electronics and testing a new $10K camera.... At least something went well....

And then on the way back left my camera somewhere (I think in the taxi), so now I'm out a camera and a bunch of other stuff. Dammit. I'm getting forgetful and I don't think it's age..... Losing $800 worth of electronics is never fun. That's a paycheck. Oh well. I'll just work on my thesis some more and pretend I'm not sad.

Monday, December 17, 2007

One Helluva Stairway.....

Hai, Jeff and I hiked one giant staircase today, clandestinely. Monday is a great day to not go to work and have some fun. The nice thing is that the weather cooperated perfectly even if access to the trail is officially closed. There was decent cloud cover and wind the whole way so we didn't get burned or bitten, but there wasn't a drop of rain to wet the stairs. The stairway climbs something like 2500 feet to get to a peak of 2700 on the windward side up a metal staircase built by the military decades ago. The crazy thing was, we hiked super fast. Hai puked a little bit but lead the way the whole time. We were up to the top in 80 minutes and we made it all the way down in 23.... mostly using our hands to go sliding down the railing skipping steps. It was super fun. The nearly-vertical sections added some adrenaline. I have to say that going up was scarier than coming down for some reason. I don't really know why since on the way down you could see that you'd fall over a thousand feet if you screwed up anywhere. The winds at the top were really strong. I'd guess 40mph sustained with gusts up to 50. Not bad. There's a lot of old military equipment up there - a few pill boxes (guns) and a radar station. Tons of that stuff is around the island courtesy of WWII.

Fu Hai

Da Nut where Liz works.
Da Mok's (Mokulua Islands around Lanikai).
The Ko'olau's to the south.
Olomana and the windward side.
The H-3 and the peak of the A'iea ridge trail.
Leftover gun stuff.
Town side and a barely-visible Wai'anae range.

Kaneohe and the Marine Corps base.
The like-like highway and the H-3 going along the pali.

Fu Hai had his GPS and laid down our track on Google-Earth. Neat stuff.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Billy postponed the usual Thanksgiving Emu party till this weekend so Liz and I could attend. We're a decent source of grunt labor, so it's in their interest.... The rain could have made it difficult, but we got lucky. We get up at dawn on Saturday and make a fire in the pit that Billy and I preped the night before. The logs burn down and make the rocks hot. Then we cut down bananna trees and ti leaves. Once the fire is down to coals and the rocks are as hot as they will be, we throw the chopped up bananna tree and leaves on top. The meat goes on the leaves, gets covered with more leaves, and then the pit get sealed with a burlap sack and a tarp. The meat gets steamed for 5 hours and then comes out in the middle of the party. Good stuff.

The weekend was really chill and we got to stay in Sheila's ohana cause she's housesitting elsewhere. It was a lot better than sleeping on the floor.... Good stuff.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Thanks-Mas Stargazing

The weather cleared and I spent a little while doing some astrophotography. I've been trying to learn the sky lately. I've got a really big pair of binoculars and now I'm able to find the Andromeda galaxy easily. It's really impressive - a fuzzy blob that just happens to be a huge galaxy. I can see it naked eye now that I know it's there.

My pics are totally not impressive, but here's an idea of what it would look like to a normal camera.

A 30-second picture. It's a little fuzzball.

A 30 second exposure cropped and turned black-and-white.

And then, here's what nice gear and good skill can do.

Rob Gendler and an APOD with a normal telescope
Hubble as an APOD.

Spitzer in the infra-red as an APOD.

And then in the UV from Galex as an APOD:

And my pitiful attempt at comet Holmes.