On Thursday November 15 I visited the MESA Club at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, CA. This visit was arranged through a fantastic program called Santa Barbara Partners in Education that, among other activities, links schools with professionals in the community who want to donate their time. The acronym MESA stands for math, science, and engineering acheivement, and the club at Dos Pueblos has about 20 members. The students are all interested in science, and they wanted a hands-on demonstration about astronomy. I decided to have them use LCOGT's citizen science project, Agent Exoplanet. As an introduction we had a brief discussion about exoplanets, why they are scientifically important to find, the type of data that is required, and how it is analyzed. Then, the students dug in! We only had 45 minutes, but I was very impressed by how quickly these MESA Club students caught on to the technique of relative photometry.
Sky & Telescope published The Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope in the October, 2012 edition. Researched and written by Santa Barbara author Cameron Walker, the article offers a snapshot of LCOGT as we deployed the first 1-meter telescopes in Chile, acquired first light on the FLOYDS spectrograph, and completed three 1-meter enclosures in South Africa.
Rounding out Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope's 1-meter southern ring development, the final two enclosures were completed last week at Siding Spring Observatory. Telescope Operations Manager Mark Willis led the effort, first building two 19-ft Ash domes on site, then erecting the prefabricated wall set from LCOGT's headquarters in Goleta, California. Finally, the two domes were mated with the two wall sets.
It has been a while since I mentioned Virtual Sky. Development hasn't stopped. In fact, since my last post about it in April last year, it has gone from version 0.3.4 to 0.3.17. Over that time I've added new features and tweaked the code to speed it up. Amongst more recent features are:
Over the past summer I had the opportunity to undertake a summer placement at Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy through the Nuffield Science Bursary scheme, under the supervision of Dr Edward Gomez. The main aim of this project was to explore the final evolutionary phases of a star's life. We looked at both large mass and small mass stars and their end stages, comprising of supernovae and planetary nebulae.
After nearly eight years of design, fabrication and development, Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) installed three 1-meter telescopes at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) and achieved first light on all three in a span of less than 30 hours last week.
Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope(LCOGT), a private, nonprofit scientific institution conducting time domain astrophysics and education, and a provider of global telescope resources, achieved first light with their prototype Network of Robotic Echelle Spectrograph (NRES) this week. The event took place earlier in the week at LCOGT’s Byrne Observatory located at the UC Santa Barbara Sedgwick Reserve.
Two of three 1-meter LCOGT telescopes are being commissioned at our first Southern site at CTIO in Chile by Annie Hjelstrom, Vincent Posner, Kurt Vander Horst & Mark Crellin, assisted by local staff. The LCOGT team will have the third telescope in DOME-A on-sky very soon (see the update below).
Both images taken on 10-Oct-2012 (UT) from our 1-m telescopes in DOME-C and DOME-B respectively.
This week’s interview is with Juan Garza.
Jessica Barton: What is your job title?
Juan Garza: Telescope Assembly Technician.
JB: What does your work at LCOGT involve?
JG: That’s kind of a trick question! In a normal environment an assembly technician would just be assembling, here we all have to wear multiple hats. I spend most of my time assembling but there is also a lot of prototyping and assisting our engineers with research and development as a technician.
JB: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself - your education, interests, past work experiences.
JG: My dad was a radio broadcast engineer and I grew up in that environment. Later studying fine arts and communications in college but fell back on electronics as a vocation. I worked in the music business for many years as an audio technician and recording engineer in the studio, later went out on the road as a production manager for live shows. The combination of art and technology that the work provided was a good fit for me.
JB: What led you to the career/job you are doing now?
JG: My passion has always been for communications. I worked in theaters, movie sets, sound stages, television shows and concerts - all kinds of places with many different artists - always involved with the audio production. The studio I was working for closed down and I went on the road doing production management for touring bands. After touring for several years, I wanted to get more background in computer network engineering because of its growing utility in the music business, in preparation to get back in the studio, I went back to school in Santa Barbara where I lived.
I got involved with LCOGT while I was in school because it combines a lot of my interests.
It’s different than the music industry but it is still really about communication, technology and robotics, all things I’m interested in. I’ve always preferred project oriented jobs and this was perfect.
JB: What is a typical day at work like?
JG: I come in in the morning and start tinkering, do assembly on telescopes, mechanical and electrical projects and wiring. That’s what I do all day long. I’ve worked on both the 0.4 meter telescopes and and the 1.0 meter telescopes, but right now the 1.0 m’s are the higher priority. We just got five of them deployed and now we are working on five more in the shop.
JB: What advice would you offer people wanting to go into the type of work you do?
JG: You have to be willing to wear lots of hats. This is not a typical manufacturing environment where you just assemble the same thing over and over. You have to be flexible and know about computers, electronics, machining, and manufacturing. In the same manner as in the music business, you have to wear many hats.
JB: What motivates you?
JG: I really think of engineering and electronics as tools, my real passion is communications. Helping those that have something to say via cultural diffusion using these tools in science, art and technology motivates me the most. Hopefully this is making our lives a little bit better now and in the future.
JB: Thanks Juan!