Top of the mountain to you
Made it! This post is being written from the WIYN telescope control room. It’s 4pm local time, the Sun is still high in the sky and the first exposure of our observing run has been made. No, we haven’t gone mad, and I haven’t forgotten that this is an optical rather than a radio telescope; our first task has been to take ‘flats’; images of the observatory dome to understand the behaviour of the camera set up. Meanwhile, Bill is flipping through the big red book of overlapping galaxies to find our first targets for the night. Let me show you around a little; here’s the view from just outside the door, looking away from the observatory
and here’s us, viewed from the other side of the mountain. The dome in the foreground is the 0.9m SARA telescope, and the hexagonal dome in the distance is WIYN.
Despite being in the desert, one surprising thing is the abundance of (albeit scrubby) vegetation on top of the mountain; there’s enough rain to support it although it hasn’t rained for a month or two. The sky is clear if a little hazy, so fingers crossed. This was the first big observatory site I visited, as a tourist just after I’d started my undergraduate degree, and it’s wonderful to be back as something approximating a fully fledged astronomer. More soon…