New addition to the website:
I have been working with a student from Mechelen Technical School (near Antwerp), Belgium on an asteroid project. The student contacted me about using the "Making Craters " activity as part of year long project for final year of secondary school. He has just submitted his dissertation and has presented it to a judging panel. Here are his experiences
It is company policy to name each of our sites (internationally) after the closest airport, using the 3-digit airport code. Santa Barbara is SBA, which is quite understandable. Haleakala is labelled OGG after Kahului airport on Maui. The origin of this acronym is slightly mystifying, and the reason for it is as follows.
Last night, we realised that all the analysis we did on the polar alignment and azimuth axis the night previously had been the wrong way. We were so frustrated! I would like to blame altitude for this, but it appears to be a software issue which told us to move the back end of the telescope up, when in reality we had to go down. This confused us for around an hour but we soon got back to the taking of pretty pictures. Here are some examples of the exposures we did. These observations were taken during a full Moon (you can see the glow of Moonlight in the corner of some of these images, particularly in NGC 253) and we haven't made any calibration images yet; so we will be getting even more spectacular images in the future.
After 15 hours on the mountain, we got first light on the South 0.4m. The first images looked a little strange (see the bottom image) because the telescope wasn't focussed yet. Once this was done, we checked the drift on the stars and saw they were moving south on the images. To fix this, Jacob and Wayne moved the azimuth axis (by around 0.75 inches) and the drift was significantly improved. We then checked the polar alignment of the telescope by moving between a bright star at the zenith (i.e. with the telescope pointing straight up, and this was our reference star which we made sure lined up in the centre) and two other stars. One star at -2h away in right ascension (RA) (due East) and the other +2h in RA (due West). The stars were offset from the centre and by interpreting the pattern, we could deduce that the telescope was overshooting the pole and wasn't correctly aligned. We corrected for these using the computer link up to the telescope and after some extra focussing and collimation attempts (see the donut shaped stars in the second to bottom image), we called it a day (night) at about 2am in the morning; we needed to figure out a better drift/collimation and pointing model (since we were as good as we could get by eye) and that would require some brain cells. Altitude is a funny thing, I won't mention the hour we spent searching for sources (even trying to find the Moon) before we realised we were 15 degrees off from where we thought we were pointing in RA. We really shouldn't have been off by that much! However, 15 degrees in RA is the equivalent to 1 hour - that gave us a big hint to what the problem was and yes the laptop we were using to control the telescope was 1 hour off local time..... I definitely blame the altitude.
This week a commissioning team (Wayne Rosing, Jacob Towsley, Haley Gomez and Edward Gomez) have been at Haleakala , and were finally able to observe on sky last night. We were working on the 0.4m telescope in the South end of the Haleakala enclosure, sharing it with Faulkes Telescope North. The night was successful and we have achieved a reasonable level of pointing, tracking, collimation, focus, and some spectacular images.
Ok, so yesterday was bit of a struggle. Not much progress was made due to network issues but they seem to be solved now. We've been up the mountain for 10 hours doing some work but we're only just now about to start looking at some stars through the 0.4m! The south 0.4m is all set up but the North has a technical issue which the Santa Barbara guys are working on. Edward will be controlling the camera, Wayne will control the interface which controls the telescope and I am going to be learning how we fix the telescope specific problems. Then we'll split into two teams and get going on both at the same time. We're running out of time in a sense, since we only have two nights left (including tonight) to set everything right. This was mostly a consequence of the network issues (so we can say it wasn't our fault!), but that will all change if we mess up the telescope so that everything is out of focus and blurred... the scientists and engineers at Santa Barbara will not be impressed with us unless we arrive back with some excellent imaging telescopes.
This morning we had an eventful ride up the mountain, we were stuck behind a horsebox on its way up to the peak to ferry down the tourists. Jacob, our driver, did his very best to stay calm traveling at 5 mph for almost 20 minutes but we got here eventually. Don't these tourists know there are people working up here! Sheesh! We finished yesterday a little behind schedule since there appeared to be a problem with the telescope drivers (the hand paddles) talking to the computer and some circuit issues with driving certain parts of the 0.4m . Jacob and Wayne worked really hard on this yesterday and are hoping to solve all these problems this morning so we can get onto testing the focus and alignment of the little guys. At the moment, Edward and I are on standby as Mark (who kept us busy yesterday) is doing some really complicated software updates. The consequence of this is that he has to do every little step to keep track of all the tests he needs to do, oh and every now and then, a very loud alarm goes off. To while away the time, Edward is doing some website development, including linking up the webcam we installed yesterday to a public website so you guys can check out what the site is doing (and so the astronomers can check the weather conditions up here when they robotically control the telescope from the comfort of their office or home). I've been finalizing some proposal templates for astronomers to request use of the LCO facilities in the near future and now will do a bit of data analysis until Wayne and Jacob are ready to make use of us.
Well, we've been at the summit for almost 10 hours and it's been great so far. Mark was installing a webcam on the outside of a building and we helped him out whilst the electrics and links with the 0.4m and the control software are being tested by Wayne and Jacob. The enclosure just opened (wow, what a noise it made!) and it was truly awe-inspiring. We got to take some pretty nice pictures too. Now we're off and we'll be back early tomorrow.