Tuesday, February 6, 2018

PFS Upgrade Series, Day 12: First Night of Observing on Sky

This is part of a series of posts about upgrading an instrument at Las Campanas Observatory. If you want to start at the beginning, it's here.

Last night was our first night on sky with PFSv1.5, and it went...okay. The weather did not cooperate with us, so we had clouds intermittently throughout the night, getting worse as time went by. At one point I couldn't even see a fifth magnitude star (which is really bright!), so that was a bit frustrating. We spent the time trying to take new template (iodine-free) exposures of a few bright, stable stars, for which we have some "old" PFS data to compare to. We need the iodine free exposures to analyze the iodine exposures and measure if there are very small changes in the stellar absorption lines indicative of planets. Actually, for these stable stars, if there are planets they must be very small, since we already know they do not have large radial velocity signals. The idea is to monitor these stars every night if possible, to compare the resulting precision to that of the "old" instrument. We got through three and a half stars (with the half being a template but not an iodine exposure), so hopefully we can get those again tonight plus a few more; the weather looks clearer, although the humidity is still a bit high. 

Oh, I forgot, we also redid the focus sequence with the install instrument, and found it changed a bit after the move, and with temperature. We'll have to do it again tonight as the instrument has changed temperature again, equilibrating to around 23C. 

Today our friends Charlie, Leon, and Nick from Carnegie showed up. It's good to see friends here! I'll try to get a photo of all the Carnegie folks at some point. 

I don't have any pictures from the rest of last night, so I will leave you with some more viscacha photos, and a few of telescopes. I have to say, being and observing at LCO never gets old for me. Every time I walk up the road to the Magellan telescopes, or out to du Pont, I feel deeply grateful and lucky that I get to come to this mountain, work with wonderful people, and study the universe. And yay, we just opened the dome for Night 2! 

Hello telescopes! Yes, I have about fifty pictures that look just like this, but the view never gets old!

Look at that sky! Stay away, clouds. 

Sleeping giants.
From yesterday, I see you, friend! 
Yesterday, later, sneak check.

Sitting upright, this afternoon after lunch. 

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