For this months A Day in the Life of post (link up hosted by musicalpoem), I thought I would do a a recap of a day on an observing run. Usually astronomers spend most of the day working at computer: coding, writing papers and that sort of thing. However we need actual data to work on, and that sometimes means packing up our bags, heading to a mountain in the middle of nowhere and staying up all night to peer through telescopes.
12.11pm: Wake up. It’s way too early, so I force myself to go back to sleep. My attempts are fairly successful.
2.00pm: Actual wake up time. I stay in bed and read some blogs and watch youtube videos.
4pm: Get out of bed and have a shower. After that I decide to go out for a small walk.
6pm: I’m hungry now. Luckily 6pm is when food is served. At this point, the skies are quite overcast and it’s still quite light out. To while away time we play a couple of games of pool.
7.30pm: The post doc and I go to the observing dome with our stuff, settle down and try to get used to all the software.
8pm: We start taking bias,dark and flat field images. These images will be subtracted from the actual pictures later to give better end results.
8.45pm: The person in charge of the telescope comes around to talk to us about safe usage of the telescope: warning us to close the dome in case of rain and not to swivel the telescope into any of the surrounding structures.
9.30pm: Luckily the skies have cleared up nicely and so we open the dome! A busy hour follows where we calibrated and adjusted the position of the telescope, focused the telescope and took test images.
10.45pm: Now that everything is set up, we set off the telescope to take images over the next hour. I step outside the dome for a minute to check on the weather conditions, and it is absolutely gorgeous. Clear skies, no light pollution and stars everywhere. I really regretted leaving my camera and tripod behind, as I would have been able to get some lovely pictures.
11.00pm: While the telescope tracks the star automatically, the dome opening does not track the telescope which meant we need to move the dome every twenty minutes or so.
11.45pm: Time to set off the telescope to get more images. Since there is a lot of sitting around while the telescope does its thing, we listen to an audiobook. It’s also been almost 6 hours since my last meal, so I snack on a cereal bar.
12:45am: Another hour long run. We spot a little bit of cloud in the field of the monitoring cameras, so I head out for a bit to assess the weather situation.
2.45am: The object we were observing is starting to set, so we decided to observe another object instead. This required adjusting the telescope position by quite a lot, but for some reason the software refused to upload the coordinates we entered in. So we had the immense fun of doing it manually.
3.40am:While we were doing this, the particle count in the air also started to rise suddenly, meaning we had to keep a close eye on the weather monitor. If the count goes over a certain number, we close the dome. But thankfully the count began to fall again.
4.10am: The particle count is quite high now, so we decide to close up the dome. We need more dark images, so we got those while the dome was closed.
4.52am: The weather alarm goes off! It warns us to close to the dome (because of the high particle count), but we have done that already. Since we will not be able to open the door for half an hour after the alarm (standard procedure), and it will be light soon, we decide to pack up for the night.
5.10am: We walk back from the dome to the lodge, half afraid we were going to trip over; not because of how dark it was, but because how distracting the skies were. Once our eyes adjusted, there were so many stars visible and I kicked myself repeatedly for not bringing my camera.
I hope you enjoyed this slightly different Day in the life of post!
Until next time, Love, Me 🙂