Tuesday, December 4, 2018

First time at LCO

I’m Sunny, a junior physics major at Pomona College. I was very fortunate to be invited to LCO by my mentors from the Carnegie summer undergraduate program. For several nights this November, I shadowed my mentors as they observed targets for an ongoing tomography survey.

Me with the Magellanic Clouds in the background!

This past summer I worked exclusively with processed data to make 3D tomographic maps of the high redshift IGM. I hadn’t looked at spectra much, so on my trip to the Magellan telescopes I was hoping to learn more about the properties of the galaxy spectra used in making tomographic maps. I was also really excited to learn about observing in general, as this was my first observing run.

I ended up most enjoying the time I spent in the Baade control room, learning about the interface and the procedures and strategies involved in observing. I learned about spectroscopic calibrations and was then able to take some on my own! I also learned about taking twilight flats, which are useful for getting calibration frames in the UV (as our targets are UV-bright galaxies). Several other highlights of my experience at LCO include holding (a broken version of) a grism customized for our targets, seeing an IMACS slitmask packed with spectra, and watching the telescope move.

Visiting LCO was amazing! I very much enjoyed learning about how the data I used was taken. And on the non-astronomy side of things, I got to see some interesting animals (like the viscacha shown in the low-quality photo below).