Thursday, December 6, 2007

hotel mauna kea

here's a clever and hilarious little video created by astronomers who regularly visit mauna kea, hawaii to use NASA's infrared telescope facility (IRTF). they created this parody of the song "hotel california" ... most likely while they were stuck killing time during a night of bad weather. they successfully capture the joy and frustrations of observing anywhere!

observing can be incredibly fun, but it's also challenging when your brain cant concentrate or think properly due to the lack of oxygen at high altitude. when things go wrong, computers break down or your data looks funky, it can get a little chaotic trying to figure out what the problem is! an additional challenge is that absolutely nothing is "standard" about operating any telescope anywhere! they are all unique beasts that get tweaked and adjusted over time so that they work! when you use one many times you get used to its methods and particular quirks, but of course these things change over time.

remember that this all assumes the weather is good enough to open the dome and observe the sky! when the roads are so bad, you cant even drive to the 14,000ft summit of mauna kea, you relax at hale pohaku where the dorm rooms are, at 9000ft. in the video they show some footage of an available time killer... the dart board! there's also a ping pong table and a good-as-can-be-expected pool table! they also highlight some other familiar scenes that many astronomers visit during their brief time off the mountain!

most observatories have a collection of games or things to entertain astronomers during bouts of bad weather.... there is the option to work uninterrupted thru the night, which sometimes is very nice... but i find that my brain shuts off after 2 am and i can no longer concentrate. so i get to know the astronomers using the other telescopes, drink a beer, play cards, read a book... it can be dangerous to try to solve an old puzzle sitting around because inevitably pieces have been lost over the years! observing is much more fun when the skies are clear!

No comments: