If you did not make a point to come to the last Keck lecture you missed a fun night.
Our regular free lecture featured one of Keck’s own this month. Greg Doppmann gave a very informative talk on using one of the Keck spectrographs, NIRSPEC, to examine the inner planet forming disks around young stars. In the near infrared it is possible to determine the presence of water and organic compounds in the material that rocky world may form from.
Greg did a very nice job of explaining spectroscopy. this is never easy, the details can get pretty technical. Making sense of spectra while talking to a general audience is a neat accomplishment. This is even worse when you are talking about the spectra of water in the near infrared where there are thousands of emission lines. Good graphics and a step by step explanation worked, animations of dancing water molecules, and dancing Greg not withstanding.
After the lecture everyone was able to enjoy great views of the Moon and Jupiter through telescopes set up by our astronomy club. We got lucky, the notoriously fickle Waimea weather gave us a break. At the start of the lecture is was raining, not hard, just the usual Waimea mist. As Greg’s lecture wound down I ducked outside to be greeted by a bright Moon and no clouds. Somewhat stunned I hurried back inside to give the thumbs up to the crew, who scrambled to setup the ‘scopes before the Q&A session ended.
When the crowd poured out we were ready. A lot of folks stayed to view, and five ‘scopes were in operation to meet them. I have to give thanks to Tony, Chris, Rickey, Cliff, Bernt, and Purcynth, who manned the scopes and answered the flood of questions. As we were breaking down the clouds were rolling back in, very good timing indeed.
The lecture was recorded and should show up on the Keck website soon. I’ll try to post a link to it when it does appear. In the meantime, if you have not already done so, get your email on the Keck Nation list so you know about these events before they happen.