You might be wondering what I’m doing on the Galaxy Zoo blog (normally you find me at Planet Four and Planet Hunters). Instead of studying planets and minor planets, a few weeks ago I was helping observe blue elliptical galaxies with some of Chris research group (his graduate students Becky and Sandor with help from Chris) using the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO). Chris wrote back in July about remote observing on CSO for a project looking at blue elliptical galaxies. Those nights in July were bonus nights. They got traded to us because the group observing needed better weather, and they kindly gave us the nights when the forecast was predicted to be not good enough for their main project in case we could do something useful with the time. We had just submitted the observing proposal to ask to use the CSO a few weeks before that. Those nights were good training for all of since we had never used the CSO before (and that was my first foray into submillimeter observing). In the fall, we learned that our proposal was accepted. We got awarded one night in November and 6 nights sometime in the the first part of 2015. We should know the exact dates when the observing calendar comes out in December.
The CSO is a single dish 10-m telescope located on Mauna Kea. The cool thing is that you can log in and drive the instruments and the telescopes remotely. On the night of November 18th in Hawaii (November 19 in the UK and Taiwan), I was logged in from Taipei, and Chris student’s Becky and Sandor were logged in from Oxford very very early in the morning commanding the telescope and instruments. This was Becky’s second run with the CSO, she co-observed during the July run. This was Sandor’s first time with the CSO and submilimeter observing.
We had really great weather and conditions. The opacity through the atmosphere in the submilimeter was stable and really low. You can see from the screen grab I took below
We were a bit too busy to blog during the night, but I thought I’d share some of the screen shots and photos we took that night including some of the computer interfaces we use to control the CSO and know the status of the telescope – Below is one of the orrery – it tells us where our target and other standard stars, Solar System planets, and other standard calibrators are in the sky. This is very handy when you’re looking for a pointing carbon star to go to tune and check the telescope pointing or if you want to double check a planet is observable for pointing and calibration. Below the orrery is the waveform for the secondary mirror telling us that it is indeed oscillating back and forth ,which is what we required for our observations.
This is the status window for the spectrographs. There are two that receive light at the same time. The bottom one covers a wider wavelength than the top one, but the wavelengths we’re interested in are captured on both.
We use carbon stars with strong CO emission features to tune the pointing of the telescope. You cans see the strong CO(2-1) line in the middle as the sharp peak.
Here’s a picture of Becky hard at work working checking that our calibration observation was centered at the right wavelength we were supposed to observing at.
Hi, I’m Meg Schwamb (normally from Planet Hunters and Planet Four), but not to fear, I’m not here to talk about planets. With the Oxford Galaxy Zoo Team, I’ve been helping to observe on the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory on Mauna Kea. Chris blogged about our first night. I thought I’d give a quick update, before final preparation for the start of tonight’s observing.
It’s been quite a world-wide effort. I’m currently based in Taipei, Taiwan. So I’m remotely logging into the telescope and instrument controls from home while Chris, Brooke, and Becky have been logging in remotely from Oxford Zooniverse HQ. Then we’re in a Skype call, so we can communicate and know who’s commanding the telescope and helping support the person running the observation.
Chris and the Zooniverse’s Rob Simpson talked more about the details of why we’re observing with the CSO these past few nights and what the experience has been like on their latest episode of Recycled Electrons, which you can find here.
The weather the past few nights hasn’t been great, we were closed Sunday night in Hawaii, we opened part of the night last night and closed due to high humidity in the middle of the night and never reopened. A few hours ago, the primary observers whose time this is, made the call that the conditions are not good enough for their project, but they are good enough for us to observe. Since I’m 7 hours ahead of the UK, one of my tasks is to be checking the Mauna Kea weather reports and waiting for the decision from the lead observer of the primary program. So about an hour ago, I phoned to start waking up the Oxford team.
The conditions are looking pretty good on the mountain. So I think we’ll have a smooth night in turns of humidity and wind. The optical depth is looking as good as our first night. I’m off to start my final checks and preparations, as I’m the lead observer of tonight’s observers (which includes Becky and Brooke in Oxford), so I make the calls of when to open, close, when we move to the next target.
If things are moving smoothly, we’ll try and update the blog occasionally. In the meantime, enjoy the view of sunset from of the CFHT webcams on the submit of Mauna Kea.
9:42pm Hawaii time – We’re all pointed on source and taking data. Been on there observing for about an hour now. We”ll move off soon to do a pointing check on a carbon star and then back integrating on our target galaxy. (Meg)
1:03am Hawaii time- We’re still on the same target. We were thinking of maybe moving off, but decided to stay on to see what some other features in the data look like with more time. We’ll be moving to our end of night source in about 40 minutes, and sit on that for the next several hours. Becky and Brooke are driving the telescope (Meg).
2:49am Hawaii time – Weather continues to about the same. We’re on to another source. Below here’s an image of the spectrograph data GUI windows that we see. The telescope has two spectrographs that simultaneous take data on the source. The bottom one FFTS2 covers a broader range and is higher resolution than the top spectrograph (FFTS1)
4:05 am – We’ve decided to stay on the same source for the rest of the night. So we’re just going to be sitting and taking observations on source then a system temperature calibration and then back to observing on source for the rest of the night. We shut an hour before sunrise so around 4:42am Hawaii local time (Meg).