Observatory life

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Hello again from the top of Mauna Kea. It’s night 5 of my 7 night run using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) and it’s all going pretty smoothly so far. The main effect of the altitude on me so far is sneezing, which I am doing with annoying frequency. If you want to find out more about what I’m doing up here check out my first mountain post here.

This is the JCMT, taken with the camera on my phone (ensuring it was in airplane-safe mode so it didn’t interfere with any observations). Annoyingly for you, I forgot the cable to transfer photos from my digital camera to my laptop so you’re all stuck with the slighly more rubbish ones. Yesterday the telescope operator took me up on the roof to look at the view, and we walked round the overhanging walkway.

The JCMT lives in Submillimeter Valley, which is below the ridge where the optical and infrared telescopes are. This gives me the ideal opportunity to take odd photos featuring me and the Subaru (left) and one of the two Keck (right) telescopes:

The telescope control room is a pretty relaxed place. Modern telescopes like the JCMT are so complex that astronomers like me aren’t allowed to move them ourselves. All we have to do is pick the next thing to look at and then the Telescope Operator does all the hard work. However, since each observation takes up to an hour to complete there’s lots of time for doing other things like blogging or watching Andy Murray in the Australian Open Final. We even got a mention on the BBC!

I’m aiming to do one more mountain post on my last night (tiredness permitting), in which I’ll try and explain more about the science I’m trying to do up here. Well, that or I’ll just post some more photos!