Hawaiian Heavens

You might recall a post from back in May describing a night spent on the summit with Jason Chu. He has been accumulating time lapse material for a significant project, capturing the telescopes of Mauna Kea under the beauty of the night sky.

Jason has published a preview of the work. Nice to see it come to life with a decent soundtrack and good editing…

WHAC Visits Subaru

Over the past few years the West Hawaii Astronomy Club has visited nearly every telescope on Mauna Kea. One glaring exception to this is Subaru, the 8.2 meter telescope belonging to NAOJ.

Subaru Telescope
The sun glints over the tall Subaru telescope enclosure
Subaru… Check.

Subaru is the only telescope with an active tour program. By making reservations ahead of time you can visit the interior of the facility with a guide. This made making the arrangements for a tour quite simple, even when the observatories are worried about events on the mountain. We did quite well for tour guides, Rieko Murai and Josh Walawender made the tour a bit better than the usual tour. Josh is well known to the local amateur community, bringing his own small telescopes to observe at the VIS.

The limit for any group visiting the telescope is eight due to practical considerations such as safety. Thus I had set up two tours, using both the 10:30 and 11:30 slots. This allowed most of the club an opportunity to visit the telescope. This did mean we were unable to enjoy the experience together. While we waited for our later tour I led a short walk to some interesting geologic features and one of the ancient ahu that are near the road.

Continue reading “WHAC Visits Subaru”

Four Lasers Aim for the Galactic Center

I am truly jealous! My friend Dan Birchall got the photo I had hoped to get… All four Mauna Kea lasers in operation at the same moment. Better yet, all four lasers were on the same target, the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The result is a great photo of four yellew beams converging to the same spot in the sky.

Four Lasers on the Galactic Center
Four lasers from Keck, Gemini and Subaru probing the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, photo by Dan Birchall
I had attempted to get a four laser shot last year. The one night all four were scheduled I was ready, on the summit with the needed gear for a photographic session. Three of the four lasers were operating, but Gemini had suffered problems and never propagated their laser. I have managed a few very nice three laser images, including one from last summer with three of the four aimed at the galactic center.

The four beams come from our two Keck telescopes, plus one from Gemini and one from Subaru. the lasers are used to create reference beacons for the adaptive optics systems used on these large telescopes. I will, with a little possessive pride, point out that the Keck lasers are much more powerful than the others.

The scheduling of all four lasers at once is a rare occurrence. All four lasers on the same target? Even more luck was involved! It helps that Dan is a telescope operator and spends far more dark time on the summit than most of us. He took advantage of the situation correctly… Grabbing the camera and shooting.

Below is more footage from Dan, a little time lapse of the telescopes working…