Saturday, September 17, 2016

First Time in the Southern Hemisphere!

This trip had a lot of first for me: first time going observing at a major observatory, first time in the Southern Hemisphere, first time taking infrared spectra and images, and last but not least first time doing it on my own after only two days of training. I was so excited when I first got to Chile. There was so much to see and especially when I got to Las Campanas all I wanted to do was look around. When I arrived I was under the impression that we were going to start observing that night, but to my surprise we didn’t start until the next day, which was great for me since I was exhausted after the long flight.  

On day one of observing, after lunch I went up to Baade to meet my advisor, Jackie Faherty, to start calibrations for FIRE and Fourstar. Learning about calibrations was simple enough, especially since all of the information could be found in previous nights logs. After calibrations I had some free time to explore before dinner.

On the way up I saw this guy. We had a stare down, until he walked away.
After taking calibrations I found some of these creatures.

The first I observed using FIRE on the Baade telescope. When I saw the telescope for the first time my first thought was “This is SOOO big. I feel so tiny!”. You can see me to scale with the mirror, no joke this telescope is enormous and I can’t even fathom how crazy it will be to look at the GMT. 

The night wasn’t too intense, but it was a lot to take in knowing that in two days I would be on my own. At first I made a few mistakes, mostly incorrect filenames, but as the night went on I started to feel more comfortable with the instrument. Also, having a ton of notes on the processes helped to ease my nervousness about the upcoming night alone.  The conditions were’t the best but we managed to get a fair amount of targets done.

On the second night I used both FIRE and FourStar. FourStar was much simpler to use, which made me less worried about the next night, since I would be using both instruments. The conditions were great, so I got lots more experience using FIRE and I managed to make very few errors over the night. I was quite proud about that! At the end of the night Jackie and I discussed the plan for the next night. At that point I felt fairly comfortable to be left on my own with my game plan in hand, I headed off for bed.

This brings us up to tonight where I am alone. Eek! Calibrations made me a bit nervous, since the first question I got from the telescope operator was about what to do with the mirror cover. He hadn’t asked us previously so I felt unsure about what to do, but I once I thought about it the answer was clear and my fears of messing up calibrations went away. At dinner I met the person who was going to be on Baade after me. He was very curious to see how FourStar works, so he decided to join me for part of the night. The conditions needed up being perfect and the night was smooth sailing! Now I just need to get all of this data transferred and then off for a nap! 

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