Tales From Waimea Part 4- Sunset approaches


airmass

Airmass plot of some of the targets I’m planning on observing tonight


It’s a few minutes before sunset. I’ve gotten the “keys” to Keck 2, and I am currently making the final preparations for the start of the night. It looks like it’s going to be a clear night from the weather report, and the cloud deck has already sunk below the summit. The instrument, NIRC2, has been checked out and initialized. Calibrations including dark images and flat field images have been taken. My starlists are uploaded. I’ve got plots of where the targets are in elevation (or airmass) on the sky. As you can see from the plot  above, I’ll be mainly looking at things all in the same place. Not a surprise since I’m going to be looking at the stars in the Kepler field which span ~100 square degree patch of sky. The beginning of the night, the Kepler field isn’t quite up, so I’ll be doing other targets for collaborator, but once the Kepler field is high enough, we’ll slew Keck 2 there and get to work.

Since it’s my first time on the instrument, the support astronomer will stay with me for the first part of the night, and leave once I’m settled in. I won’t control the telescope, the operator on the summit will do that, but I’ll have control of the camera and decide which targets we go to next. You can check out the all-sky-cam for Mauna Kea and see how it looks during the night here.

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Astronomers at Keck have it easy – whereas I used to slog up to the summit of Mauna Kea*, dealing with the lack of oxygen up there in harsh conditions**, Meg is observing from a sumptuous sea-level fa