Seven Years on the Mountain

Numerologists love the number seven. Another odd number that has come to have a special meaning for no real reason.

First Target of the Night
The Keck 2 AO Laser attempting the first target of the night with the light of sunset and a setting Moon behind
I have been working atop Mauna Kea for seven years now. This place that once seemed so alien is now so familiar. I walk through the observatory and look about, noting all of the things I have worked on, installed, or been involved with in some way. There are few parts of the facility I have not touched.

I helped install much of the Keck 1 laser system, from running the cables to aligning the launch telescope. The weather monitoring system atop the roof and in the domes is all my work, a complete replacement of the system over the last few years.

Secondary Selfie
A self shot looking into the Keck 2 secondary, at a reflection of the primary.
It is the AO systems I have been most involved with, responsible for the day-to-day functionality of the hardware. Entering an AO enclosure so many memories stream about. There is little I have not had to repair or work on in some capacity. I am familiar with every cable, every button and switch. I can recall schematics of many of the devices, the documents that show where everything is interconnected, I have drawn or edited most of them. I have had my small part in every discovery that comes from these amazing systems.

Mauna Kea Shadow
The shadow of Mauna Kea appears through the mist and haze at sunrise
I recall nights with both lasers stabbing the sky, golden beams amongst the bright stars. There have been glorious sunsets, of foggy sunsets when the world turned golden. There have been days we have dug our way into the building through drifts of snow, coatings of ice on every surface with foot long sideways icicles. Of driving through drifts of snow, tire chains scraping the ice, with snow flying and the vehicle skidding towards the guardrail. Of winds so strong they threatened to overturn the vehicles as we scramble to abandon the summit. I have watched the dawn after a long night of observing, the Sun rising above billowing clouds, the first brilliant rays etched into my memories.

Mauna Kea is a place of wonder and beauty that I have been privileged to experience, a treasure of memories to enjoy for a lifetime.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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