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Getting excited... and starting packing!


Helen
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On Thursday this week I'm off on a University field trip to Arizona :icon_biggrin:  We will be spending 2 nights on Mount Hopkin at the Whipple Observatory sitting in on observing runs for spectra of dwarf galaxies.  Then we head to Mount Lemmon for 2 nights where we have the 32 inch scope for own use :smile:  we'll be gathering data on variable stars, supernova, exoplanets and asteroids - and Adam Block is our host, so I'm hping for some time on astro image processing too!!.  Then to finish off we spend 2 nights on Kitt Peak working with Jim Scotti on Spacewatch, so asteroids and comets, with 1.8m and 0.9m telescopes.  So excited!!

We may have some free time too, both day (when not sleeping) and night, so I'm planning to take my little 72mm scope, solar filter, a couple of eyepieces and cameras in the hope of taking advantage of the altitude etc.  I just need to work out what is the minimum kit I can get away with.... the Star adventurer I picked up from Stu @Stu at SGL11 will be my base (worked well for solar in testing).  My little widefield Vixen binos will be the first item packed though as I think they will be just awesome :glasses9:

I just hope the weather is good for at least some of it! (although even just being backstage at these observatories will be fascinating)

Be warned, there may be pictures on my return.... :wink:

Helen

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Arizona implies Tuscon. If you bump into a tall slim Englishman called Alan ask him how the observing of the Vega protoplanetary disk is going and give him regards from the IoA. :hello:

That should confuse him.

Just tell him you are checking up on his progress. :icon_biggrin:

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm back - it was a great trip :icon_biggrin:  I'll report in three bits, here's the first

 

Part 1: Fred Whipple Observatory Mount Hopkins

We arrived in Tucson in the early hours of Friday morning a bit wrecked after 25 hours travelling and tried (not very successfully!) to catch a few hours sleep before we headed south to Mount Hopkins.  We particularly wanted Paul Roche (our course lead) to be fresh as the road up to Mount Hopkins can best be described as 'hairy'.

Our destination

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We met Emilio (the mountain ridge manager for Mount Hopkins - cool job!) at the visitor centre and Paul was given a 4-wheel drive official vehicle for the drive up.  It was only after we made it down safely that he admitted he'd never driven a 4-wheel drive on gravel roads before :icon_eek:.

The visitor centre, with its Veritas telescopes used for detecting gamma-ray Cherenkov radiation from dark matter.

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The long and winding road.....

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I must admit it was a bit nerve-wracking as for the majority of the road there are no barriers, but steep drops.

We got to the top safely though, and were shown to our dorms and the common room.  Quite nice considering... and quite a view :smile:

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We then went up to the MMT.  The square building is perched atop the mountain at 8,500 foot (you feel the altitude!).  It contains a 6.5m scope, with a mount that only moves it in alt!  for az the whole building moves!!!  Can you imagine guiding a building?!?  

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We got to stand on the gallery in front of the scope, and later went back to stand there with the shutters open - that was probably the highlight of my trip.  It was like standing on the front of a vast ship with the universe (and Arizona and Mexico) laid out before you with the sun settting.  And then they moved the scope, and the building and the vista just rolled in front of us.  Magical!72.jpg439.jpg

 

The scope is amazing:

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We spent the whole night up at the scope with the telescope operators and researchers doing spectroscopy on a recent supernova and some dwarf galaxies.  As with most imaging the interesting bit is at the beginning setting it up, and watching subs come in is rather boring!  So we chatted a lot and planned for the up coming observing runs.  (There are also 2 really comfy reclining leather chairs which served as rotating beds for us!)

Here are some pictures of the control room and screens...

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The kitchen table planning and sleeping!  It was a weird feeling when the scope was slewing as the whole building vibrated and the noise was like ramping up for warp speed 3!  And when we left the building we had to be careful as the door was in a different place to when we entered!!

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We spent 2 nights at MMT :smile:  before heading back down the long winding road and then on to Mount Lemmon for adventure two :smile:

Helen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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