Zooniverse Goes to Mauna Kea, Day 1: High Winds

(…more like Day 1.5. We arrived late last night in Hilo, HI after about 24 hours of traveling for the Oxford contingent and mere 14 hours of travel for myself).

Chris, Becky, Sandor, and I are at Mauna Kea to use the CSO telescope to look for blue elliptical galaxies. Or at least they are. I’m just here with my American driver’s license to be the chauffeur. As the non-astronomer in the group, I think it’d be fun to give an outsider’s perspective into what an observing trip is like.

Hale Pohaku

We’re staying at Hale Pohaku, just downhill from the observatories. It’s name means ‘Stone House’, referring to the original structure built by the CCC during the 1930s. It lets visiting observers acclimatize to the high altitude of Mauna Kea. (As Zooniverse readers may know, altitude sickness is not fun.)

The team

Plotting their course of action

While the weather at Hale Pohaku has been beautiful, it is also amazingly windy. So amazingly windy that we weren’t able to start observing tonight when the sun set. Instead we’re reduced to sitting in the common room refreshing a page of anemometer readings hoping that it will drop down below the maximum 35 mph wind speed we can operate the telescope at.

Car on top of Mauna Kea

struggling to open the car door in the wind

We did get to drive up to the summit of Mauna Kea to visit CSO with its manager Simon Redford. Driving the road up the mountain was quite the trip. It’s 5 miles of winding back and forth dirt road that ascends from 9,000ft (2,740m) to 13,000ft (3,960m), but it did give us a spectacular view.


The JCMT which is right next to the CSO

You can find more photos of the trip on our album. We’ll be adding to it throughout out stay. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have some actual observing news to share.

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