Sunday, October 3, 2010

Diary of a Sleep-Deprived College Student on an Observing Run

Tonight I'm on an observing run with Dr. Takamiya, so I thought I'd do something a little different and give you a glimpse into a day night in the life of a sleep-deprived college student on an observing run.

~1730: Got to IFA, met Dr. Takamiya, got set up down in telescope control room. Brought food (hopefully sufficient for the 12 hours I'll be here this time!).

1841: Spent about an hour deleting and zipping extraneous files to make room on the computer where the data I work with is stored. Learned in conversation we actually have several vacuum deposition chambers for aluminizing mirrors lying around on campus. Good news for the University Astrophysics Club's plan to refit some of the non-functional telescopes we have lying about on campus!

1854: Have broken out the Mountain Dew. Not feeling tired yet, thankfully, but doesn't hurt to be proactive.

1909: Now listening to "Chorale Fantasia" by Beethoven on Dr. Takamiya's computer after I mentioned it to her. One of my favorite pieces!

1925: Finale. I love this song!

2030: Ha ha. Turns out all those files I deleted held some position information that isn't available in the more reduced versions. They're all backed up on another machine of course, so just spent the last 45 minutes making a list of them so Dr. Takamiya can find them and send them back to me. Is that ironic or what?

2121: Another 45 minutes of scripting allowed me to turn our breakthrough from Tuesday into a workable script. Now each time the script examines a spectrum, it generates a graph of the region around the Hα line for fast visual error catching. The only catch is that you can't control the location or name of the newly-born graph, so the script has to search for it after each iteration and whisk it away to a safe location while renaming it something meaningful before the next one is created.

2132: Ugh. Heaviness of eye setting in. Just realized I need to add redshift information to new data files from Sunday night

2222: Redshift information all added. Eyes definitely getting heavier.

2230: Back to troubleshooting my new and improved graph-generatin' script. Trying to pin down source of elusive "truncated pixel file" error.

2251: Alright! Turns out it just needed the memory cache flushed periodically. Script is now happily populating folders with hundreds of graphs, and storing logs of its results as well. Not much for me to do with it until it finishes. Maybe it's time for that soup I brought...?

2303: Hoo, boy, eyes feeling gritty. At least I have cup of noodle soup. Yum. Yum.

2322: Not much happening. Noodle soup and Mountain Dew conspiring to keep me awake. Script still happily running, is perhaps 25% done? I don't know exactly how many data files there are to work with now that the new ones have been added.

0032: Mountain Dew and soup both gone. Am now in deeply into part of the night where I'm most tired (strangely enough, it's about a twelve hour offset from the time of day when I'm most tired). Script continues to chug along, has currently analyzed 115 cube files so far. Maybe 50% done?

0220: Ok, script is finally done. However, it output one more set of graphs than it did log files. What on earth? Now I have to track down the extraneous one and figure out why it didn't get a log file.

0235: Aha! One of the cube folders is empty, for some reason. Didn't expect that, which is why it took so long to track down. A simple extract operation got it spiffied up, however, followed by analysis and graph-making, bringing the total number of data files we have to work with to 224. Each of which has been split into 225 component spectra, all of which were individually analyzed and graphed over the last two hours. That's 50,400 spectra!

0256: Wells, it turns out those files I deleted did not, after all, contain the position information we need, so it's no problem. Also, I just got all the raw data files from the observing on Wednesday night. Time for more cube converting!

0300: Finally, starting to wake up a bit.

0234: Redshift information added to all the newly-minted cube files from Wednesday night, beginning the extraction process! (whereby each cube file is split into its 225 component spectra)

0328: Extraction process complete, beginning graph-making and analysis!

0404: Analysis complete, total number of individual spectra is now close to 58,950 (the actual number is slightly lower because some of the pixels in the spectrometer are bad, and occasionally don't produce a usable spectrum). This is also the number of graphs created in the last few hours, and equals 262 individual data files.

0502: Almost done for the night, as twilight begins to creep upon the earth. This is good, as my ability to concentrate and focus has decreased to the point where I'm not getting any more useful work done.

0539: Well, that's a wrap! We're done here for the night. As the rosy-fingered dawn climbs into the eastern sky (to borrow a Homeric turn of phrase), I make my way home, to catch what rest I can before the light breaks fully upon the landscape and destroys any chance I have of sleeping. Hope you enjoyed this look at a day's night's activity for me! A hui hou!


  1. Fun and Owie on the sleep! Maybe brown paper bags and duct tape for a redneck blackout curtain to extend the sleepable period just a little longer?

  2. I am seriously considering something like that. I actually managed to sleep till noon, probably because it was pretty overcast Saturday. The sunrise, though, as I was driving home, was gorgeous.


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