Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Action

I've talked fairly often about working at the Joint Astronomy Center, specifically supporting the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, but I haven't been able to get a good picture of it since I started working there. Luckily I have a friend from college, William Montgomerie, who graduated before I did and got a job at the JCMT as a telescope operator about three years ago. Will's into photography like I am, and being up on the mountain all night so frequently gives him some great opportunities. He graciously provided this wonderful panorama of the JCMT:


If you weren't familiar with it previously, this may not be what you were expecting from an observatory. This is because the JCMT isn't an optical telescope. The large white sheet you see in the center is the world's largest piece of Gore-Tex (technically one of two, we have a spare). Behind that sits the telescope dish, because Gore-Tex is basically transparent to sub-millimeter light. There's a roof that rolls out along the top, and two doors that roll in from around the sides to close it up.

Also, note the vehicle in the garage at lower-left for scale. The JCMT has the second-largest dish on the mountain (after the Very Long Baseline Array dish), and a large building to house it.

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