8 meters

A telescope is defined by its collecting area. For an optical reflecting telescope, this is the diameter of its primary mirror. So how big can these mirrors get? Well, the York Observatory houses a telescope with a primary of 60 centimeters in diameter. I posted a picture of that mirror here when it was taken out for re-aluminizing. But mirrors can get a lot bigger than that. One of the largest mirrors in the world can be found at the Gemini Observatories (one in Hawaii atop Mauna Kea, and the other in Chile), which house telescopes with 8 meter primary mirrors. When the Gemini ‘scopes were being built, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) painted a circle on one of its outer walls the exact diameter of the primary mirrors of the new telescopes. Here’s me standing in front of that circle.

A circle 8 meters in diameter. I'm standing next to it for scale.

A circle 8 meters in diameter. I’m standing next to it for scale.

The largest optical reflecting telescope on the planet is the Gran Telescopio Canaris, in the Canary Islands. Here’s a list of the runner ups.

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.

Princeton

Peyton Hall, the building for astronomy and astrophysics at Princeton University

Peyton Hall, the building for astronomy and astrophysics at Princeton University.

I recently visited Princeton University to attend The Multi-Wavelength, Multi-Epoch Heritage of Stripe 82, a workshop on a section of sky dubbed Stripe 82 (originally imaged by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey collaboration), but then targeted for quite a large range of follow up observations. Subsequently, Stripe 82 has become a massive mine of data quite important for astrophysics. The workshop was a great chance to show off some of my work on Stripe 82 and learn (quite a lot) from the other researchers there. I also made a poster. Check it out (click it to download a copy):

The poster I presented at the Stripe 82 workshop in Princeton, New Jersey

The poster I presented at the Stripe 82 workshop in Princeton, New Jersey. Click the picture or here to download a PDF.

Sunny San Diego

The west side of Point Loma. I could have spent hours on these rocks.

The west side of Point Loma. I could have spent hours on these rocks.

The motorcycle, the ocean, and the Sun

The motorcycle, the ocean, and the Sun

another view of the bike and the ocean

another view of the bike and the ocean

This was one of the most beautiful roads I've ever been on.

This was one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever been on.

Which way to go?

Which way to go?

sun getting low on the horizon

sun getting low on the horizon

people live here!

people live here!

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.