Palomar Observatory: Day 4

When observing at Palomar Observatory, observers stay in a placed called ‘The Monestary,’ which is a little house about a 7 min walk from the ‘scope. It got this name because anyone entering the Monestary during the day must be very quiet! Observers return from the telescope after sunrise and go straight to bed, they do NOT like to be woken up! Especially if you’re on a run that lasts many nights and is in the winter (much longer nights). Every ounce of sleep is crucial. I found the Monestary to be so welcoming, it had a very strong family feel, as if I was an invited guest at a friend’s house. Very comfortable and VERY good food! [Every night before observing I’d eat too much, and then complain about it]

Both our observing nights were wrought with clouds! Night 1 started out with decent weather, but clouded over quickly. Unfortunately the seeing was really good that night*[See below]. Our second night was completely clouded out, and even had some rain! Not a single photon from the sky landed on our CCDs. Them’s the breaks.

You have to see the silver linings when you have nights like that. For instance, a great part of observing at Palomar was that we had a telescope operator with us the entire night. This means we didn’t have to concern ourselves with driving the telescope (which can be difficult), we only worried about the data we were taking. Here’s what the telescope operator’s console looks like:

I wanted to put another image of the Hale 5m, just because I’m in awe of its hugeness

Here’s me sitting at data console, waiting out the clouds!

While the nights we had weren’t the greatest weather, we did get some data, and just as important, I learned a lot. I hope to move forward, using what I’ve learned for the next round of telescope proposals!

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*** In astronomy ‘seeing’ is a measurement of how still or blurry the night is. All stars are point sources, meaning they are very tiny dots with no discernible size. But when the light from a star enters our atmosphere, the tiny dots become blurry depending on the thickness and turbulence of the atmosphere. If you have really good seeing that means the atmosphere is not messing up your image as much. Therefore, you can have really good seeing, but still be clouded out.

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2 comments on “Palomar Observatory: Day 4

  • Greg

    Man that looks awesome! …. The food not the telescope stuff LOL They are both good 😀 Thanks for explaining ‘seeing’. I will use that information and change it to my advantage at some point.

  • jesse

    haha! I weep for the future