I may miss some of the events here in town, but I have yet to miss a Waimea Christmas Parade. This year was no exception, I always help out at the CFHT star party afterwards.
The difference this year is that I walked with the Keck float. Actually our parade committee came to me and asked me to take photos, oh… and here is a release form to sign.
Of course this is a lighted parade, not wanting to look out of place I spent the morning soldering and put together a flashing LED hatband for my good cowboy hat. It came out well considering it was put together with what I had lying about. It helped that Deb whipped together a nice band from from nylon webbing to build it on.
As usual the crowd was stunning, half the island shows up for these things. The main street of Waimea is lined ten people deep from end to end, sometimes more than that! Everyone is waving at folks they know in the parade, a true community event.
We put it together in very short notice. Fortunately a webcast is pretty easy to put together.
Keck is hosting a sizable team of folks who are here to observe comet ISON. Astronomers from several institutions are participating in the NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign. They have a total of 6½ nights, but only the last few hours of each night as the comet rises in the dawn. Comet C/2012 S1 ISON is starting to encounter significant publicity, we may as well take advantage of this.
It was a lot of fun. I particularly like the spot (41:00) where I made the mistake of saying spectra were not very pretty to look at in a room full of spectroscopists. These folks love spectra and quickly corrected me, leading to a nice discussion on why spectra are so valuable to astronomy, often more valuable than photos.
The video is embedded below. A lot of good information about comet ISON, indeed about comets in general. Nothing like having a room full of comet experts…
Supposedly twins, each of our two telescopes has its own peculiar personality. Anyone who works on the crew can tell the telescopes apart at a glance. I do not need the caption to know this is Keck 1. Each telescope has a unique configuration, a unique set of instruments, plus many little differences that take time to appreciate and come to love…
Keck tracks every night with a custom, in-house database. These form a complete log of what occurred every night… The routine, the problems, the small disasters of operating a complex facility on top of a mountain. Reading these logs every morning is a ritual for many of the staff. A synopsis arrives in our e-mail each day, to be read on an iPad over breakfast, or as soon as you sit down at your desk.For many in the operations department the contents of the logs set the pattern of the day. Was this a quiet night with no issues? Or is this a day when you need to drop everything to address some serious problem on the mountain?
Below is a typical night log from a quiet night. Reading through the logs each morning reveals much about the inner workings of the observatory. Who was working the night, the visiting astronomers and their subject of study. The logs also contain a number of statistics that are used to monitor the performance of the observatory.
An evening stop in the local market to pick up a few groceries. There is always a stack of local newspapers on the checkout counter. But this edition looked a little familiar… That is my photo! I knew Steve, our PIO at Keck, had forwarded the image to the newspaper. I did not expect it to be at the top of the front page!
The image has gotten some traffic. Posted to Facebook the news of snow on Mauna Kea resulted in the highest traffic day I have had in years for this blog. It is not even a great image, just a snapshot taken as we headed for the vehicles to get off the mountain. The light is horrible, the scene seems flat, but it is snow, and that is always big news around here.
Actually, this is my second front page image. A panorama shot from the Keck roof was featured on the front page of the Star-Advertiser earlier this year. It is always a nice surprise to see an image of mine get some press!
Winter might just be starting in Hawai’i. A fall storm dropped the season’s first snow on the summit of Mauna Kea this afternoon. Not much, just enough to turn the summit white. I had to scrape the frozen snow from the windshield to free the wipers before I could drive down.
We got 1.2″ of rain at the house, quite a bit when you consider we get 10″ a year in the shadow of the mountain. I am headed back to the summit tomorrow morning, wondering what we will find, this storm is just starting.