Saturday, May 17, 2014

Observing Blog, Live from the JCMT

And now, live from the JCMT control room...

8:30 PM: We left Hale Pohaku at 6 o'clock, only to have a flat tire as we ascended the access road. The took a while to fix, so we didn't get up to JCMT until almost 7 PM. Once there we had a few small faults before we were able to get started observing, but we've been running problem-free for about an hour now. Up here at 4,120 meters (13,517 feet) the pressure is a mere 627 millibars at the moment, only about 61.9% of the mean sea-level pressure of 1,013.25 millibars.

This low pressure typically makes me tired, but I took the extreme step of drinking a cup of coffee before I came up today -- I say extreme because in the past a single cup of coffee at any time of day has been enough to keep me forcibly awake until 4 in the morning. (In fact, I had one yesterday to keep me up as late as possible so that I could sleep in today and be ready to stay up tonight. It worked well.)

10:10 AM: Not much to report. Things have been going fairly smoothly. I'm definitely starting to feel the dryness in my nose and eyes. Normally I feel it even down at Hale Pohaku, but it was a bit more humid than normal down there the last few days. Am now sipping a large mug of tea, which is keeping my throat from drying out at least.

4:00 AM: Pretty quiet night tonight (not a bad thing after our initial adventure!). Just a few minor issues so far (which is pretty normal). I've been fighting off sleep for the last few hours with the help of a second cup of coffee (drastic measures!). Just four more hours to go before I can sleep! I am not cut out to be an observational astronomer. But that's fine, because I always knew I wanted to be more theoretical, anyway.

6:30 AM: Still nothing much happening. It's been a pretty quiet night where the biggest difficulty has been forcing myself to stay awake. Even two cups of coffee wasn't a guarantee. I've managed, though, and am looking forward to going down and getting some sleep so I can do it all again tomorrow night!


  1. I could never work those hours! Hope yoe're holding up.

    1. The hardest part is the transition period. The first night I was really tired, because I work up at 8:30 in the morning then stayed up all night. The second night I slept till 4 in the afternoon, and was able to stay up all night with almost no effort. The only problem, of course is the fact that I only needed to do it for two nights; it'd be more efficient to be up there for a full six-night run like the telescope operators do, but that's how it worked out.

      I will say that even knowing it gets better, I don't think I'm cut out to be an observational astronomer. I've never really been a night owl; I prefer working while it's light out. A theoretical astronomer's life for me!


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