Through trial and error my friend Dean Ketelsen has worked out a perfect place and the correct dates to observe the Sun setting behind the telescopes of Kitt Peak National Observatory. The site is along the Mt. Lemmon Highway above Tucson, over 50 miles away from the observatories. The correct alignment occurs just a few days before and after the solstice. It has become a bit of a holiday tradition for the members of the local astronomy club to join Dean at the correct spot in an attempt to get just the right photo. This year the weather treated them well…
I have looked for a similar alignment on Mauna Kea. Unfortunately the telescopes are not highly visible from sites east and west of the summit where the Sun will rise or set behind. The full Moon might be possible, but much tougher to predict.
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.
It was fun. It is always fun!
It is AstroDay, a chance for all of the observatories to do a little community outreach.
Prince Kuhio Plaza is the largest mall on the island. Perhaps small by large city standards it is still the focal point of shopping in Hilo. The observatories and a few other organizations use tables all through the branches of the mall. In the center of it all is a stage with live music, giveaways and other activities for the crowd. The whole thing is a great family day and a great outreach opportunity.
Tomorrow is AstroDay at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo. I will be there! Will you?
I stumbled across a useful site. Well… perhaps useful to those who do not already have a job on the mountain. It used to be the case that to check for jobs at the observatories you had to check each observatory website separately. Now you can find all of the listings in one convenient website.
The site does not identify who is assembling the information, but it does seem to be accurate, the current Keck listings are there. I found the site through a prominent link on the MKSS website. It appears to be official, but oddly enough is privately hosted at GoDaddy, not a UH or observatory server, need to see who is putting this together.
This Spring, the W. M. Keck Observatory is throwing a weeklong party called Keck Week 2013, to celebrate the observatory’s first twenty years of high-impact, game-changing astronomical discoveries from the venerable twin-domes on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The festivities will take place in several Kohala Coast resort venues as well as in the town of Kamuela and will mark a distinctive confluence of the brightest minds in astronomy alongside our country’s most significant scientific philanthropists. Early registration lasts until December 20th, offering a 30 percent discount off all events.
“We are very excited and honored to host Keck Week 2013,” said Taft Armandroff, Director of the W. M. Keck Observatory. “We look forward to showcasing the unprecedented discoveries made by our powerful telescopes and our ambitious community of dedicated scientists. With this event, we want to celebrate Keck’s first twenty years of achievements and unveil a vibrant course for our future.”
Keck Week 2013 will open March 14th at The Fairmont Orchid, with the Keck Observatory 20th Anniversary Science Meeting – a rare, two-day binge of astronomy discourse and finely honed presentations describing Keck’s legacy discoveries. On March 16th, Keck Week will peak with a Star Struck Fundraising Gala, a grand evening at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and feature a live auction of spectacular items, a gourmet dinner, live music and dancing, and remarks by special guests. Other events planned for Keck Week 2013 include:
- “Astronomy Live! Tonight” – Enjoy a hosted reception under the stars with Keck’s most popular astronomers, star gazing, a live feed from the summit and much more;
- “Welcome to Our Universe – Keck Observatory’s Open House” – Explore and discover the science and engineering of the Keck Observatory with exhibits and hands-on activities developed by the professional staff at Keck;
- Keck Tennis Match – Watch Keck astronomers out-parallax their Friends of Keck competitors on the court;
- Contact! – A free showing of the feature film on the big screen; and
- Hawai’i Astronomy – Visit Hawai’i’s other astronomical centers.