Having fun with a GoPro Hero3 camera. Before any night time observing occurs, the telescope and instrument require set up, and calibration images need to be taken. We arrive about an hour before sunset (which was roughly 6:15pm local time during the week I was there) to start setup. First we fill the instrument’s dewar with liquid nitrogen to keep the instrument cold. Then we do calibration images. This time-lapse shows the hour of set up and calibration we did on one of our observing nights.
I couldn’t capture a time-lapse of the whole evening because the GoPro doesn’t work well at night. GoPro’s are designed for day time use. Ah wells.
The Kitt Peak National Observatory is not just home to professional telescopes and astronomers, it also has a fully operational outreach program and visitor center. The mandate of the center is to engage with the public, which they do in a variety of ways. They have an informative exhibit in the visitor center, daily tours, daily solar observing (which I wrote about in a previous post), and even night time observing programs. There happen to be a night time observing program for the public on the Saturday of my observing run. Normally, this would not have mattered much as they would observe with their own telescope and then send everyone home; however, there happen to be a lot of clouds this evening. Not only did this mean my colleagues and I couldn’t do any science observing, but the public couldn’t do any recreational observing either. As a result, they were looking for some other fun things to do. I happen to run into the staff organizing the pubic program in the cafeteria before I headed to the telescope to set up for the night and they asked if, should the weather prove cloudy and unusable, we wouldn’t mind giving a quick tour of the Bok ‘scope. I was happy to do so.