Friday, 15 April 2011

Begin again

Sometimes the weather just doesn't treat you right, especially at 4km up a mountain. It is essential that, as an observer, you don't let it effect you. Getting mad at the weather isn't going to help, so you just accept your fate and wait it out. We finally came down the mountain, knowing that we had, at least, gotten three half nights of decent data. We brushed ourselves off, and slowly the weather cleared.

Now, it is round two. We have a second set of observations, this time, perhaps, even more important. Not only is Cassini observing Saturn's aurora, not only is Hubble, but now we have observations on both IRTF and Keck. Two of the best infrared telescopes in the world, both observing at the same time. Needless to say, it feels as if the weight of the long, slow run without result has lifted. Our IRTF observations begin tomorrow, but tonight is all about Keck.

The twin telescopes of Keck. In our observations, we will be using NIRSPEC on Keck 2, the dome on the right in this picture.

Keck consists of two separate telescopes, each of which have a ten meter dish, still considered close to the largest telescopes on Earth. Tonight, for a span of only two or three hours, we will focus in on the aurora of Saturn, hopefully producing the richest auroral infrared spectra ever seen from the planet. You can even look in on us between 11am-5pm on Friday 15th (BST).

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