Friday, May 29, 2009

Observing Report: May 28

The night went exactly as planned. The clouds vanished around 8:30p and a modestly clear night ensued. The data set from the night is pleasing to the eye, but may not be worth while since the night was not perfectly photometric. Still, we shall see how good it comes out when I reduce it and analyze it in the coming weeks. It was a good end to the week as I now turn and head back to Dartmouth where I will finish up with classes and then enter into the summer months with a (hopefully) good set of data, all 22GB of it! I hope to have something to report on from this data set, and if I do, I will certainly let everyone know.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fedora 11

A few days ago I posted a countdown timer for the release of Fedora 11, the latest in a long line of solid Linux operating systems. The countdown was down to just a handful of days but was recently bumped back a handful more! I found it odd when I saw the counter today that it had gone up! Obviously something needed to be taken care of, which is good to see that the Fedora people are not afraid to push a deadline back when something needs work. They generally do not scrap included packages unless it is entirely unlikely that the package will work with the new release. Microsoft, take note. Projected release dates are not set in stone, you can move them back! So what if geeks around the world will give you hell for delaying a week or so, the common user won't care if they have to wait for the latest version of Windows... generally, they won't even care that there IS a new release of Windows.

The latest version of Fedora looks very good, at first glance. With the inclusion of OpenOffice 3.1, the release will be great for the common user who needs their computer to check email, surf the web, and type word documents (and the occasional spreadsheet). If you're up for a slight adventure and would like to install a new OS that is NOT Windows, I would highly recommend it. The comfort of not having to worry about viruses, trojans, and malware is wonderful. If you are not up for the challenge, might I suggest, then, at least installing OpenOffice 3.1? They have added support for the Office 2007 extensions (those damn .xlsx .docx .pptx) that have been driving the world insane. It may not be quite at the level of Office, yet, but it is vastly approaching.

You may find OpenOffice 3.1 HERE

Pre-Observing Report

For the night of Thursday May 28: More clouds overhead. Ominous as they may look we are not supposed to get any rain... yay! Once again I feel that it will end up being like the past couple nights where the first couple hours are a loss and then the last 7 hours of the night will be decent. This also means I will more than likely be up doing dome flats past the early morning twilight. It won't be too bad today considering this is my last night so I will have to be up in the morning anyway so that I can catch my flight back to New Hampshire at 12:45p. Looks like it will be a long 24 hours... not slated to get back until 11p EST. So as I sit here with my bowl of soup for dinner/breakfast, I am crossing my fingers hoping for some decent seeing this night!

Observing Report: May 27

The night began as predicted. Storm clouds rushed in and sat overhead for the first hour or so. Once they cleared, and the weather predictions indicated that no more fronts were approaching, it was time to open the dome. Seeing was decent throughout most of the night. It wasn't until about 2:30a that things deteriorated. Seeing became horrible. Some sneaky cirrus clouds may have moved in unnoticed, I am still not entirely sure, but even at low airmasses the seeing was around 1.8" compared to the usual 1.2"->1.5". I tended to focus on objects that were yielding good images without adjusting the focus on the telescope since that can be a time consuming process. Once again the clouds hampered any opportunity to take evening twilight sky flats so I will once again be up a bit longer taking dome flats. Although I could more than likely use flats from other nights, since the detector has been kept at a constant temperature (-120 C), it is better to be safe than sorry and have dome flats on reserve just in case the sky flats from various nights highlight different detector characteristics. Aside from the clouds, no technical problems were encountered, thankfully!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pre-Observing Report

For the night of Wednesday May 27, 2009: we are looking at cloudy skies for the first few hours, until around 11p according to After the initial cloud cover, it is supposed to open up for the rest of the night for clear observing with good seeing. The winds look to be light, as they have been this whole trip, around 10mph, on average. It would seem that tonight will be much like last night in that the first part of the night will be spent waiting for the cloud cover to vanish, topped off with data that will be of good quality, but not the excellent quality that we are striving for.

Observing Report: May 26

Well I was finally able to open up last night around 8:30p. This didn't mean that the clouds had relented entirely. They persisted for a little longer, until around 9:00p. It turned out this wasn't too bad since I still needed to focus the telescope and get everything in order. I was able to observe 6 of my 8 objects and several of the photometric standard fields which are used to calibrate the images when it comes time to extract useful information from them. Conditions steadily improved over the course of the night and by 1:30a the seeing was down to about 1.2", allowing for some decent exposures. The data will still most likely not be of any use, though, since the conditions were not of the quality needed for scientific measurements. In the twilight of early morning, I was able to obtain sky flats in the R and I filters, or ~630nm and ~800nm pass bands. Since I was not able to obtain sky flats in the B and V filters, or ~430nm and ~540nm pass bands, I stayed up for about an hour longer in order to take dome flats in those two filters.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pre-Observing Report: Update

As fate would have a large group of dark clouds have been approaching rapidly from the East. They have just appeared on the radar and will apparently last until 11pm. Dome opening has obviously been delayed for a few hours.

Pre-Observing Report

The weather predictions look good for tonight. Once again, mostly clear skies with light and variable winds under 10mph for the first half of the night and then under 5mph for the duration. Seeing is forecast to be good, not excellent, but good, indicating seeing around 1.2"-1.5" for the night. Odds are that I will be able to get excellent photometry for all of my objects, save one. That lone star is polluted by the light reflected by Saturn. The level of pollution two nights ago was tolerable, but not so last night and I can imagine this night will be even worse. Although this would seem to be an issue, I have photometry on HIP 54639 from my run in February and thus it is not a total detriment. So, lift your mug with a choice beverage (mine is coffee!) and here's to clear skies!

Rock and Astronomy

Since I do such a great job of keeping this thing updated, I thought it necessary to inform the world that I am in Arizona atop Kitt Peak. Actually, I'm not quite at the top. Another 2 miles up the curvy and desolate road is the summit where the Kitt Peak National Observatory is located. I'm situated on a small peak below, along with the 2.4 meter Hiltner telescope, also part of MDM. I have discovered that heavy metal and astronomy go well together. While I have not found the perfect playlist to offset the weariness that comes around 2:30a (AZ time), I have found that Megadeath goes well with morning twilight sky flat fielding. It is surprising how well you feel at 5:30a with Symphony of Destruction playing as you home the telescope and close up the dome; the first rays of sunshine for that day illuminating the telescope as the dome shutter slowly makes its way down to shut the telescope off from the world after a hard nights work. The next time you are out observing the twinkling wonders of the heavens, I strongly recommend bringing a collection of rock and/or heavy metal... preferably metal - most rock these days is from bands that are some form of Nickelback... they all sound the same and suck while they're at it. For those that aren't adventurous and don't want anything too "heavy", go for Metallica.