thewayne: (Default)
This is 972 photographs, taken in aperture-priority mode at f4.5, ISO 1600 with an interval timer firing every second. The first frame was at 1/90th of a second, the final frames were 6 second exposures. The green light is many quadrillion photons of laser light on the secondary mirror on its way to retroreflectors on the moon.

I am REALLY enjoying my interval timer! Best inexpensive accessory that I've ever bought! Best expensive accessory would be my 17-40 zoom.
thewayne: (Default)
How about from the telescope level of a 3.5 meter telescope. Yeah, it works in my book.

Half of my wife's job is as the senior observing specialist of said telescope at Apache Point Observatory. The other half is bouncing a 1.21 jigowatt laser off of five retroreflectors on the moon, three left behind by Apollo astronauts and two attached to Russian robotic probes.

Right now it's below 30f with the wind gusting at 30 MPH, and the eclipse is in totality. I've seen eclipses before, but this is much cooler. By being at an observatory, a real one that does science, you're guaranteed to be away from most light pollution, so the viewing quality is much higher. And tonight's a full moon with the eclipse, and the change in the visible star field as the eclipse has progressed and the reflected light level has dropped has been really interesting. All of the high magnitude stars begin to pop out almost like it were a new moon.

I'm working with two other spotters, we watch for aircraft that might fly in to the beam while it's lasing. The beam won't damage the aircraft or the pilot's eyes, but it might cause a loss of night vision. Since we have three, we're up for 40 minutes then we rotate one person and they're down for 20 minutes. It's still pretty brutal cold.

Aside from seeing all the stars come out for totality, the thing that I'm finding most interesting is that as the eclipse progressed towards totality, the shadow moved from about 7:00 to 1:00 relative motion across the moon, and as it comes out of totality, it's moving from about 11:00 to 5:00. I know it's because of the motions of the earth and moon, the moon was rising early on and is now setting, etc., but it's still cool.

This eclipse is rather special in that it's happening on the solstice, which coincides every 400 years or so. And because it's an eclipse, it also is a unique photographic opportunity, which I'll talk about in another post as it's 4am, the eclipse is over, and I'M GOING TO GO HOME SOON! Spotting for six hours is rough!
thewayne: (APO 35mm 1)
Russet needed someone to help her do some tests on the tertiary mirror of the telescope. So she crawled under and literally into the telescope to test some movement limit switches and observe the mirror's motion as I entered commands to move it.

Pretty cool!

I am such a geek. :-)

I also helped prevent a bit of nastiness and a potential extremely expensive catastrophe. Tonight is an engineering night, so there is no one using the telescope for science, it's just Russet and a programmer in New York who is helping her with some software issues via remote access and chat. Before I helped her with the tertiary test, she had mounted an instrument on the telescope called DIS (Dual-Imaging Spectrograph). After we finished her tests, she decided to mount CoreMas, so I helped her take DIS off and put CoreMas on. Well, until I noticed one of the catches wasn't seating quite right.

The instruments mount on the side of the telescope on a rotator collar that can rotate the instrument a full +/- 360 degrees. The instrument sits on two big steel pins, then four clamps hold it flush against this ring. Standard procedure is to position the cart, lower the cart until the instrument is resting on the pins, clamp the two top clamps, lower the cart another inch or two, clamp the lower clamps, then remove the cart entirely. Generally there is a box or something on the instrument that would hit the cart and damage the instrument if the cart is not removed.

Tonight one of the lower clamps did not lock in place.

So basically, if it had not been noticed, it is possible that if the instrument had been rotated so that the insecure clamp was on top, there would be uneven stress on the three remaining clamps and it is possible that the instrument could fall off and drop to the ground.

Though I don't know for certain, I would guess that these things run $100-200,000.

Not a good thing!

So I get mentioned in tonight's log report twice: once for helping with the tertiary diagnostic, and again on the problem report for the bad clamp!

WHEEE! (I am still such a geek.)

(oh, almost forgot to mention, I also got to close and open the dome!)

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