Monday, May 23, 2005

An Astronomer's Monday

So many people have the idea that astronomers work every night at the telescope and that we sleep during the day. This is, alas, a romanticized view of astronomy. If we are lucky, we'll get a week or so at the telescope every six months. So, what do astronomers do on a typical day?

It's been a few weeks since I was last at the telescopes, so I'm on a pretty "normal" schedule right now. I got in about 8:30 this morning, and started by reading emails that had piled up over the weekend. Most of them weren't very interesting -- typical bureaucratic emails reminding us that parking pass applications are due, that we should be certain to lock up our bikes to prevent them from getting stolen, and that the fans in the Chemistry building will be down for repair on such-and-such a date. Exciting, no?

This was followed by a quick browsing of research papers that were published over the weekend. A few interesting papers were there, but probably nothing you would find very exciting, unless you are interested in "gray dust."

I'll now spend the rest of the day analyzing data from recent telescope runs. I have some computer tests I'll be running to see how effective my analysis is. Again, nothing exciting to report yet!

This is a rather typical day for most astronomers. If it were during the school year, we'd also have various academic meetings to go to and classes to teach. So, this is not a glamourous, rock-star life (darn!). Nor are we hermits living on top of a mountain and isolated from the doldrums of everyday life. But every once in a while, we get that little spark that produces an interesting result. And when I do, I'll be sure to share it. :)

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