Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rain and Moon at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.

Last night I went up to the Vis, as I mentioned in my post yesterday. It was one of the worse nights I've been up there; a thick layer of clouds in the afternoon left everything covered in a layer of condensation in the evening, a very rare occurrence. Normally we get layers of clouds ascending and descending around us, but the air overall stays fairly dry. This time, everything was soaking wet, and every telescope had a layer of moisture on its optics. The smaller Dobsonian-mounted Newtonians with their open-mirror-cell design dried out pretty quickly, but the larger scopes were completely impossible (is that redundant?) to focus to anything more than a nice, large blur for almost the entire night.

I spent a good hour or two jumping between different scopes (we were a bit short-staffed) trying to dry off their optics with a hair dryer and get them aligned while having to tell people that they really couldn't see much more than a blur through them, unfortunately (which is stupendously depressing, having to turn people away from astronomy). The night had its funny aspects as well; I was highly amused at the percentage of people who will try to look through the eyepiece of a telescope while someone is standing in front of the other end shining a light into it and directing the flow of air from a hair dryer at it. (Do they think the telescope can somehow look through me? I'll never understand people...)

Another thing making it really difficult last night was the almost full moon. Due to the weather and the fact that the telescopes mostly weren't performing, there were hardly any people for the last hour, so I took a moonlit walk out to the silversword enclosure to see the silversword by moonlight. It was not quite as spectacular as I had perhaps foolishly imagined, but kind of cool nonetheless. They didn't glow in the dark or anything, but they did have a faintly visible silvery sheen, though not enough of one for me to get a picture without using the flash, sadly.

A hui hou!


  1. Did you wave at the people looking through?

    I really really want to make it up to the Vis at some point!

  2. Ha ha, no, I didn't think of that! I was waving the hairdryer back and forth in front of the tube, though...

    If you ever want to come up and volunteer, let me know and I'll get you a volunteer sign up form (mainly necessary so you're on file and allowed to ride in the company vehicles).


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