Jun. 28th, 2017

thewayne: (Default)
My wife's work shift a few weeks ago was rough, and turned out worse. Normally Russet works every other Saturday/Sunday, this time she scheduled herself Tuesday through Friday as she had a team of three visiting Chinese astronomers with their own instrument. They had booked the entire night, at considerable expense. Their instrument is an infrared imager (camera) that can capture a THOUSAND frames a second! Pretty spiff! (Broadly speaking, there's only two types of astronomy instruments: imagers for infrared (and other bandwidths) photography and spectragraphs that measure the chemical composition of objects.)

Being able to wander around an observatory equipped with two big telescopes with whatever non-flash camera equipment that I can dig up is such a wonderful perk of being married to an astrophysicist!

This photo was hand-held, f1.4 at 1/5th of a second, ISO 800. Very minimal manipulation. The bright light to the right of the top monitor was the Chinese scientists working with/on their instrument.



Normally operations are conducted from a lit and comfortable control room, but this instrument was being continuously, and I mean CONTINUOUSLY, tweaked. So all four of them were spending most of the night in the dome. Frequently they'll use the in-dome computer for instrument set-up at the beginning of the night then put it it to sleep and go down stairs for most of the shift.

She had chosen to work the entire time the Chinese scientists were going to be there because she understood them better. It's not that she speaks Chinese, it's just that she's worked with them before and understood their broken English pronunciation better. Plus, astronomy has a limited vocabulary of key terms (azimuth, seeing, magnitude, etc.) A second telescope operator, Ted, was supposed to take the second half of the night Weds/Thurs, he was then going to be working Saturday/Sunday. Tuesday night Russet gets an email from Ted's girlfriend: he's in the hospital with food poisoning. Felled by a Taco Bell in El Paso. There's only four people who are qualified and allowed to work on the 3.5 meter telescope. Of the other two, one just came off-shift, so it's not fair to ask him to come back, and the other is up in Albuquerque doing out-reach. So not only does Russet have to work four solid shifts in a row, she also has to pick up Ted's weekend.

Not much fun. Fortunately weather was not good, so the dome was closed a lot of the time.

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