Friday, October 2, 2015

A first time Observer

Visiting Las Campanas was probably one of the most fun things I have ever done. I can honestly say that. I think one of the things that surprised me the most was how welcoming everyone was. Everyone we met wanted to talk to us about science, about the instruments, about what we wanted to do. I was shocked by how much people took an interest in what such young researchers are doing. Not because we aren’t awesome *hair flips* but because sometimes you meet really successful people who have no interest in students, which ultimately is their loss. But I never had that feeling while visiting Las Campanas. Everyone was kind, interesting, and just all around good people. 

Jackie Faherty shows Munazza Alam and Sara Camnasio up to
the Magellan while I follow behind taking photos. 
I am very green to the astronomy research scene. I have approximately four-ish months of research under my belt, which is to say, not very much. Any form of research can be daunting, but especially astronomy. The vocabulary, the instruments, the coding are all extremely new things to me and come with a steep learning curve. I remember during my first week of research and doing the ole smiling and nodding business to try and make it seem like I knew what I was doing. 

If I’m being honest, I really didn’t. 
But, you prevail and move on. 

I ended up doing data reduction from the FIRE instrument on Baade, so I’ve gotten pretty familiar with it over those past four months. But really seeing FIRE, in the flesh, or rather in the metal, was unreal to me. I never really thought that I would be able to use it from the observing end.

Jackie while she checked
the dome for ice
But the day had come and while Munazza, Sara, and myself were finally getting settled into the chairs in the control room, trying desperately to hide the actual amount of cookies we had each eaten (it was not a small number), we were plagued with the horrible and malicious things that are clouds. 

Maybe I shouldn’t call them malicious per say, they just wanna be alive too I guess. 

Regardless, the overwhelming clouds and the following ice that covered the dome was something that I didn’t really expect. Logically speaking I know that you can’t see anything when there is something in your way, but most people, or maybe just me?, think that something such as a measly cloud can’t bring down the reign of the ultimate 6.5 m Baade telescope!!!!

wrong. so wrong. 

But, you prevail and move on. 

The first night on Baade we never even opened the dome. But I still had a really awesome time. I got to get to know Munazza, Sara, and Jackie even more than I had before, and I got to eat almost my entire weight in cookies and avocado-covered sandwiches. 

The next night we got about half way through a 2 hour observing target when the infamous clouds began to roll in. 

We closed. But at least we got to do at least a little bit of observing. 

Munazza, myself, and Sara tour the dome
We ended up touring the under belly of Magellan. There is a huge hallway that leads from Baade to Clay that has all of the replacement parts for all of the instruments. 

To say the inner MacGyver in me wasn’t very very excited, would be an understatement.   

We actually did, eventually, open the dome again and take real data, and with FIRE too. Although we didn’t take as much data as we all would have liked, it was still incredible to see FIRE in action, despite our horrible seeing conditions. I learned a lot and I feel like I am closing in on that steep learning curve. Slowly inching my way towards the time when I will no longer have to smile and nod my way through things. 

It’s a slow tedious process but ultimately very worth it, until you move on to another astronomy subfield and the vocabulary starts all over again. 

But like all the things that are worth it in life, you prevail and move on. 
Jackie, Munazza, Sara, and myself after seeing
where the GMT is going to be placed

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