Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oh, deer

One of the nice things about going observing is that the trip involves visiting a secluded portion of wilderness, albeit one with hot meals, indoor plumbing, high-speed internet, and soft beds.  It's the best of both worlds!

With the short nights of summer, I have some extra time to kill in the afternoon.  Yes, I could be a good astronomer and work on papers and data analysis.  But instead, I've been taking some walks in the great outdoors.  Here are some pictures from the past few days here at McDonald Observatory.  Click on each one to see a larger view.  And, be warned, I'm not and never will be a great photographer.

The mountain is full of wildlife, including larger animals like deer and javelina.  It's a bit scary to run into the latter at night.

This is a 180-degree panorama taken near the 36-inch telescope (in the dome on the right).  The center of the view faces southeast, toward the town of Fort Davis.  I made this panorama using a demo version of some stitching software, which explains the random watermarks sprinkled liberally over the image.

On a clear day, you can see for miles, sometimes well over a hundred miles.  The last couple of evenings, there have been gorgeous views of building thunderstorms.  This picture was taken after sunset, so the base of the cloud is in shadow, but the top of the cloud is still bathed in sunlight.  This storm was off to the northeast, in the direction of Pecos, but I never checked the radar to see exactly where it was.  The distant dome on the left is the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, and the dome on the right is the Harlan J. Smith Telescope.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Finally back at the telescope

Tonight I've been observing at the McDonald Observatory.  It's been 13 months since I've last sat at the controls of a telescope to do some research.  I think this is the longest interval I've gone without using a telescope since I started graduate school in the late 1990s.  I can feel a bit of the rust.

A lot has changed since last I was sitting in front of the telescope controls.  Last April, I was negotiating terms of a new job as a university professor.  Today, I've finished that first academic year.  Or perhaps "survived" is a better term.  I was warned by many colleagues that this was going to be a busy year, and I believed them, but I was still shocked how busy the year was.  The transition from astronomy research to educator is not easy.

So now that the summer is here, I'll be working hard on my research projects, and hopefully getting to write a lot more here than I have over the past several months.