FLASH Talk for NOAO

The National Optical Astronomy Observatory consolidates much of the optical astronomy in the United States into one office. Its main locations are the Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) in Arizona, and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile. This week, I’ve travelled to KPNO with my supervisor, Dr. Patrick Hall, for a 7 night observing run on the Steward Observatory‘s 2.3m Bok Telescope.* Both the NOAO and the Steward Observatory (which is a tenant of KPNO) have their main offices located on the campus of the University of Arizona (whereas the telescopes of KPNO themselves are an hour west on Kitt Peak Mountain). Since Pat and I were travelling to the mountain, we elected to give a Friday Scientific Lunch Talk (or FLASH talk) at the NOAO offices.

The south east corner of the University of Arizona's campus.

The south east corner of the University of Arizona’s campus. Notice the massive football stadium in the far left background. Go Wildcats.

The Entrance to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). It is directly across from the UofA Astronomy Department/Steward Observatory; however, the NOAO is NOT part of the University.

The entrance to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) main office. It is directly across from the UofA Astronomy Department/Steward Observatory; however, the NOAO is NOT part of the University.

This picture is taken from the exact same location as the picture above (of the NOAO entrance); they are directly across the street from one another. The Steward Observatory is the research arm of the Department of Astronomy at UofA.

This picture is taken from the exact same location as the picture above (of the NOAO entrance); they are directly across the street from one another. The Steward Observatory is the research arm of the Department of Astronomy at UofA.

The title slide of my talk for the NOAO. Click the picture, or here, for a copy of the slides.

The title slide of my talk for the NOAO. Click the picture, or here, for a copy of the slides.

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* Earlier in 2014, I also spent a week at the Bok telescope, see posts here, and here, and here, or just look at all of these.

Motorcycling the Southwest: Day 3 and Summary

Day 3: Kitt Peak, AZ to San Diego, CA

Distance: 722 km
Duration: approximately 10 hours

Total Distance: 2100 km (see previous posts here and here)

The route back from Kitt Peak

The route back from Kitt Peak. Click the image to see the interactive map I made.

There really isn’t much to say about this ride; it was really just a ‘get there’ kinda day. The amazing thing was that it was a relatively easy drive. I was running on 3 hours sleep (after being at the telescope for 12 hours) yet I still made it home ahead of schedule. Since that was the case, I went straight to the ocean.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean. I made it to the ocean about 45 min before the Sun set over the water. I drove to the famous Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, took some pictures, and then waited for the Sun to set. It was more relieving than I thought when I got there. Knowing I had finished.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean. I made it to the ocean about 45 min before the Sun set over the water. I drove to the famous Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, took some pictures, and then waited for the Sun to set. It was more relieving than I thought when I got there. Knowing I had finished.

The bike, after completing 2100 kilometers from San Diego, to Flagstaff, to Tucson, to San Diego. Good ride.

The bike, after completing 2100 kilometers from San Diego, to Flagstaff, to Tucson, to San Diego. Good ride.

In California and Arizona there is far too many landmarks to see, too many amazing roads to ride, too much unseen scenery, and far too many mountains to climb with just 3 days to do it.
The one thing I learned on this trip: I have to go back.

Sunset over Sells

Sunset over Sells, Arizona

Sunset over Sells, Arizona. The city of Sells is the capital of the Tohono O’Odham Nation, a people native to America. Kitt Peak resides within their boarders, and was constructed with their permission. The city is directly west of Kitt Peak. With this sunset, I end my time on Kitt Peak mountain. For now.

Inside the Bok

Here's me standing under the Bok 90inch (that's 2.3 meters for you metric peoples).

Here’s me standing under the Bok 90inch (that’s 2.3 meters for you metric peoples). The instrument we’re using is called 90prime, which is located at the top of the ‘scope. More on that below.

The control of the Bok 2.3m. On the left are the computers that control the instrument (i.e., filters, exposing), on the right is the telescope operations (i.e., slewing to new positions, moving dome, etc.).

The control room for the Bok 2.3m. On the left are the computers that control the instrument (i.e., filters, exposing), on the right is the telescope operations (i.e., slewing to new positions, moving dome, etc.).

We had a little trouble with our filter wheel on the second night of our observing run. The filter wheel is a mechanical wheel that holds different filters designed to let only certain ranges of light to pass through. Due to the problems we had to tip the telescope over to get at the instrument.

We had a little trouble with our filter wheel on the second night of our observing run. The filter wheel is a mechanical wheel built into 90prime that holds different filters; the filters are designed to let only certain ranges of light to pass through. Since 90prime is located at the top of the scope, we had to tip the telescope over to get at the instrument.

Mike, staff at the Steward Observatory, is helping us diagnose and fix our filter wheel issue. He's working on the instrument. The instrument, 90prime, sits at the prime focus of the telescope, and is about as tall as I am.

Mike, staff at the Steward Observatory, is helping us diagnose and fix our filter wheel issue. The image shows him working on the instrument. 90prime sits at the prime focus of the telescope (which is why we have to tip the telescope on its side to work on it). 90prime is an imager with a field of view of 1 square degree. To get an idea of the size, 1 square degree would be able to fit 4 full Moons in an a given image, since the Moon is about 0.5 degrees in angular size. Also note in the image we’re looking down at the 2.3 meter mirror. The star-like pattern is the opened mirror cover. When we want to protect the mirror we close the mirror cover.

The telescope is pointed at the white screen bathed in light from the halogen's below. This is what astronomer's call 'flat fielding.' When you build a CCD, not every pixel is going to respond the exact same way to light. In order to calibrate for this, you shine every pixel with the same amount of light, which then tells you how each pixel behaves differently. You can then 'flatten' the field using that image. Also looks spooky.

The telescope is pointed at the white screen bathed in light from the halogen bulbs below. This is what astronomer’s call ‘flat fielding.’ When you build a CCD, not every pixel is going to respond the exact same way to light. In order to calibrate for this, you shine every pixel with the same amount of light, which then tells you how each pixel behaves differently. You can then ‘flatten’ the field using that image. Also…. it looks spooky.

Ready and waiting for twilight to end. The dome has been opened and the scope is ready to start.

Ready and waiting for twilight to end. The dome has been opened and the scope is ready to start.

Outside the Bok

Haha. the Bok and the Bike. The Bok 90inch telescope towering over my tiny motorcycle.

Haha. the Bok and the Bike. The Bok 90inch telescope towering over my tiny motorcycle. The hand railing you see about 2/3rds of the way up the structure is known as the ‘Bok Walk.’ The white donut to the bottom right is the original cement mirror blank for the Bok. Since most telescopes are actually built before their mirror is completed, ‘mirror blanks’ are created in the exact dimension/weight of the mirror-to-be. The blank is installed so that the telescope can be balanced in advance of the mirror arriving. After it is no longer needed, the blank can become an exhibit piece.

The hatch leading from the telescope out onto the Bok Walk. It offers a fantastic view.

The hatch leading from the telescope out onto the Bok Walk. It offers a fantastic view.

This is taken from the Bok Walk looking over the road coming up the mountain.

This is taken from the Bok Walk looking over the road coming up the mountain.

The Bok and the Mayall telescopes. The Mayall 4m is one of the more famous telescopes on the mountain. It is the highest elevated telescope on the mountain (2120m), which is actually taller than the summit of Kitt Peak itself (2098m).

The Bok (left) and the Mayall (right) telescopes. The Mayall 4m is one of the more famous telescopes on the mountain. It is the highest elevated telescope at 2120m, which is actually taller than the summit of Kitt Peak itself (2098m).

test

[Roll mouse over to animate]. Heading to dinner before the night’s observing run I took a look back at the Bok telescope, among others. These ‘scopes are on the north-most part of Kitt Peak. This is shot is taken looking in the North direction.

goodview

[Roll mouse over to animate]. This is the view from the Bok Walk at sunset looking south over the whole of Kitt Peak (the Sun is setting off to the right). If you roll your mouse over the image you’ll see the location from which I took these images.

The Steward Observatory Kitt Peak Observing Station, erected in 1962.

The Steward Observatory Kitt Peak Observing Station, erected in 1962.