Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Red-letter Day.

You never whom you might meet on Mauna Kea. Famous astronomers and dignitaries come from the world over to Mauna Kea, and since there's only one road to the top, they tend to concentrate along it.

Case in point, I had to work on Easter this year, and thanks to our driver we made it up to Hale Pōhaku in really good time. I was the second person to the cafeteria counter and was waiting for my omelet when a man I hadn't seen before came up and struck up a conversation. He then proceeded to introduce himself as Mead Treadwell, Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, and joined me and my co-workers for breakfast. Turns out he's the head of an association of states with investments in aerospace industries, and he had come to Mauna Kea to check up on the PISCES robotics project that NASA runs there every year. (PISCES is an initiative for testing various technologies that could someday go into space. Since Mauna Kea is the closest analog to Mars we have, they test out various rovers and things that might someday be rolling around on the Red Planet.)

Mr. Treadwell was quite friendly and polite, even handing out hot-cross buns from his favorite bakery in Anchorage to everyone. It was quite an enjoyable experience, and would have been enough to make it a special day, but that afternoon we also received a visit from Scott Losmandy and his wife.

Mr. Losmandy is the creator of the eponymous Losmandy mount, a popular mount system for telescopes. In fact, we use it for three of our telescopes. Mr. Losmandy turned out to be a humble and unassuming man, and we wouldn't even have known it was him if his wife hadn't blown his cover. Once we found out, however, he was very nice and even showed us how to fix a slight problem we'd been having with touchy power connectors on the Losmandy mount. They wanted a picture of one of our telescopes on its Losmandy mount, but their camera was out of battery, so I took the following picture and sent it to them.

Our three Solar telescopes on their Losmandy  mount.
(The wheels and triangular base aren't part of the Losmandy mount, it's basically the legs and the control box that rotates the telescope to counteract the rotation of the Earth.)

As you can see, you never know whom you'll bump into when you work on Mauna Kea!

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