First images on the fly
Unbelievably, it’s already 2am on our first night on the mountain. Things are going pretty well; the seeing has improved somewhat and so far the camera seems to be performing well. More importantly, I’m managing to stay awake despite a bit of a slump for an hour and half – it turns out pots of coffee are the solution.Of course, this is just the start of the hard work. Behind me, Anna (a PhD student from the University of Alabama) is working hard at not swearing at the computer in the course of analysing the data properly; a painstaking process which we’ll describe in more detail later in the week. Meanwhile, to my left Bill is invoking supervisor’s privilege and doing a rough version of the same analysis. First results visible by clicking to read more.
Here are a couple of the prettier examples we’ve got so far; Sloan images first, then images we’ve taken with WIYN tonight.
The first thing you notice is that our images are monochrome; we have in fact taken images in two different colours and so will be able to replicate some sort of colour image later on. The next thing to notice – and the important thing – is that much greater detail is visible in the images we’ve obtained with our larger telescope (a mirror with a diameter of 3.5m, instead on Sloan’s 2.5; it sounds like a small difference but it actually means that the collecting area we have is almost double). This detail is all important in disentangling what’s going on – for example, in the top pair it’s clear from WIYN data which one of the galaxies is on top, something that couldn’t be seen in the Sloan image.
These thumbnails are just a taster of the data’s power, and we’re already on to system number 5. We have about 2.5 hours of darkness left so there’s plenty of time yet.