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Old Nov 15 2008, 08:52 PM   #201
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Glad you escaped from the airport, Steven. Hope that was the hardest thing you have to do on this trip! Do get lots of rest while you can and eat some healthy stuff so you can cope with the altitude.
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Old Nov 15 2008, 10:06 PM   #202
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Glad you made it there safely if not in a timely manner. And do take lots of pictures!
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Old Nov 15 2008, 10:47 PM   #203
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Steven...glad to see you made it there in one piece...hope you can get some decent sleep this trip...I will be looking forward to seeing some of your new photos!!!
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Old Nov 16 2008, 12:14 PM   #204
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Hello again everyone. This is my rest day in Antofagasta before taking the bus to the observatory tomorrow. I'm feeling much better now after sleeping for 11 hours. (I forgot to say I was also a bit shaken yesterday because my flight from Paris spent 2 hours encountering a storm in the Caribbean. We arrived late because the flight had to divert around it, but I'm sure glad we didn't go through the middle.)

Here is the first picture for the new record. My flight from Santiago to Antofagasta passed by the observatory, and I took this picture out of the window:

The picture shows the 4m VISTA telescope on the left, the ESO 8m "unit telescopes" (and associated bits and pieces) in the middle and the residencia (where we sleep and make James Bond movies) on the upper right. Last time I spent all my time sleeping at the residencia and working at VISTA. This time the work will be split between VISTA and the VLT control room next to the unit telescopes. So this time I might get some pictures from there.
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Old Nov 16 2008, 12:48 PM   #205
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Steven,

Is that really a photo?? It looks like an oilpainting!!

I do hope that you get some rest and in between work periods once you get started

Take care!
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Old Nov 16 2008, 12:54 PM   #206
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I concur with Nina, your picture looks like a painting!
But boy, even only this picture is worth you taking a camera!

aside: every time the James Bond movie shot are mentioned in relation to the depicted area I get this vision of you in a tuxedo, leaning towards Lanen saying in a warm voice:
"The name's Beard... Steven Beard"

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Old Nov 16 2008, 02:25 PM   #207
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What amazing glaciation: all those striding edges!



Looks like a set for Cwm Dancing!
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Old Nov 16 2008, 03:32 PM   #208
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hans View Post
I concur with Nina, your picture looks like a painting!
But boy, even only this picture is worth you taking a camera!

aside: every time the James Bond movie shot are mentioned in relation to the depicted area I get this vision of you in a tuxedo, leaning towards Lanen saying in a warm voice:
"The name's Beard... Steven Beard"




Anyway, nice imagery, both of you! I that picture. Looks like it should be a book cover art or something.
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Old Nov 16 2008, 03:37 PM   #209
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The picture was taken with Lanen's camera (I left mine behind) in glaring sunlight out of the window of the plane. The picture ended up washed out with very low contrast, so you could hardly see the buildings. I corrected it by bumping up the contrast. I think it looks like a painting because in the glaring conditions the camera had a smaller pallet of colours to work with.

P'ter, "glaciation" is the last term I would use to describe the Atacama desert. There isn't a trace of water down there. Even the light areas that look like they might be lakes turn out to be pockets of green dust. But I see what you mean. I wonder what this area looked like during the last ice age. It seems too close to the equator to have been affected by ice, but on the other hand the Andes mountains are not far away. Now there's a question - does anyone know what happened in the southern hemisphere during the last ice age?
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Old Nov 16 2008, 04:40 PM   #210
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It would depend on their latitude & longitude at that time
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Old Nov 16 2008, 11:21 PM   #211
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I really enjoyed the photo "Beard...Steven Beard"...I bet Lanen got a real chuckle from that comment of Hans... I know we did too...you would look smashing in a Tux !!!
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Old Nov 16 2008, 11:28 PM   #212
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Steven, that is an amazing pic. When it first came up, before I started reading the post, I thought it was a painting. Thank you for sharing it with us.
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Old Nov 18 2008, 09:40 AM   #213
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Hello everyone. I have arrived at Cerro Paranal but have unfortunately been installed in a container, which is basically a glorified garden shed out in the desert with a bed and a desk inside it. I don't have good access to the Internet from here, so I'll need to wait until I am moved to the residencia before I can post any photographs.

I'm still aclimatising to the altitude and night hours. I worked my first night shift as soon as I arrived yesterday. VISTA looks much tidier than it did when I was last here. I lot of the containers and junk have been removed from the site. We also now have a permanent telescope operator, which means no more juggling with multiple workstations at the same time. I'll bring you news as it happens.
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Old Nov 18 2008, 09:50 AM   #214
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Know all about night shift, except mine's in 4 walls with no telescope. Lucky man! All I'm doing is looking at a blank wall.
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Old Nov 18 2008, 12:17 PM   #215
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Awwww, I'm sorry they didn't have room for you at the Residencia, that just sucks!
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Old Nov 18 2008, 02:02 PM   #216
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I really hope it all gets sorted out sooner rather than later!
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Old Nov 18 2008, 11:40 PM   #217
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Steven...What no more rolling speeed chair to get to each station...

Lets hope that they get you out of your garden shed, and nicely tucked into one of their nicer rooms soon. Hope the work goes as well as you could hope for.
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Old Nov 19 2008, 12:02 AM   #218
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Thanks everyone. Another shift over. The "garden shed" is in fact in the container complex they call "The Bond Camp" because it's the containers the Quantum Of Solace crew donated to house astronomers who were ejected from the residencia while they were filming there. So this place is interesting, but that doesn't make it any more comfortable. I'm told I'll be here for "a few days" but will eventually move to the residencia.

Goodnight everyone.
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Old Nov 19 2008, 03:56 AM   #219
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Well.. OK, the Bond connection gives you a nice story and anecdote Hope you'll be housed in the nice residencia soon.
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Old Nov 19 2008, 08:18 PM   #220
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Hiya folks - Steven, I've only just seen that photo. Incredible!! I concur, it does look like an oil painting. Amazing! you are just SOOO good!

and Hans, I LOVE that image! Though I might suggest a minor change to the dress code... Personally, I'd love to see Steven in 18th century garb, a la Mr Darcy.

Hiya love, if you happen to see this tonight. It's after midnight and I'm off to sleep, but dreaming of you

Ever your own

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Old Nov 21 2008, 07:55 AM   #221
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Hi folks. I'm still stuck in the container, which gives me less opportunites for posting. I have been sleeping in here as much as possible after my night shift because the window blinds don't work and I am woken up by the sun every morning. Then during the day it gets so hot in here I have to escape to the reception area in the residencia. I have been trying to get moved to the residencia, but there's little hope of that at the moment. Too many ESO astronomers are needing accommodation at the moment.

Here is a picture of the Bond Camp where I am staying:

The camp is made from metal shipping containers joined together. This is my room:

You can see it's slightly more cramped than my room at the residencia last time I was here.
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Old Nov 21 2008, 09:20 AM   #222
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Hi Steven,

To be positive it does look like a good bed
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Old Nov 21 2008, 11:49 AM   #223
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I was afraid it would get too hot in containers (even those with a nice bed) during the day Argh... how can somebody think to use shipping container, even a simple wooden temp structure would be better.

Despite the place being busy I hope you get a chance at some nicer room in the residencia for at least part of your stay! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.
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Old Nov 21 2008, 12:44 PM   #224
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Steven for your dedication. I don't think I could stand to stay in that box for long at a time. If you just go in there to sleep, maybe it's ok. If not for the blue sky I'd say it looked like the place was on the moon! I hope you can get better accommodations soon.
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Old Nov 21 2008, 02:07 PM   #225
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That is small!
The bed looks nice but it's no good if you never get to use it.
I hope that something happens to mean that you get somewhere better to sleep!
I suppose, being containers, that there is no air con at all too.
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Old Nov 21 2008, 05:58 PM   #226
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Yes, the bed and the furnishings are the best things in that room. They are all fairly new because the Bond film crew were only here 9 months ago. The photographs can't show the oppressively hot and stuffy atmosphere. (I am posting this from the residencia reception because I can't stand being in that room during the day for more than about 15 minutes.) Hans, I made a mistake - nearly all the containers here are metal boxes, but on closer inspection the Bond Camp is made of wood. It's like a glorified garden shed.

But I don't want just to post about how awful my accommodation is. In my next post I'll try and bring you some more news about what has been happening with VISTA. In the mean time I'm back to work again...
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Old Nov 21 2008, 07:29 PM   #227
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Well, poor accommodations can be ignored (at least a little) when you're really enjoying what you are doing. It must be wonderful to be included in a project of that scope (Pun obviously intended). I, for one, will be looking forward to your next "report"!
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Old Nov 22 2008, 12:42 AM   #228
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Another quick post now my night shift is over. Here is a rather privileged picture showing the VISTA telescope starting up at the beginning of the night. (Normally nobody is allowed into the dome during the startup. ) Last time I was here it was winter and we started up the telescope in darkness. Now in the summer we're starting up at sunset, so there's more light outside, and it's possible to get a photograph like this. Lanen's camera struggled with the low light (and I would have been hung drawn and quartered if I'd used a flash around all that light sensitive equipment ).

The photo shows the VISTA telescope in its mirror raising position just after the dome slit has been opened. The telescope has an active primary mirror, which sits on an air bag to take most of its weight. The air bag has to be inflated with the telescope at this jaunty angle. Once the air bag has been inflated, a collection of computer controller acuators can push and pull the mirror into the correct shape.
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Old Nov 22 2008, 04:22 AM   #229
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Sandi, you are absolutely right!

And this is a picture with a story indeed, Steven. You story making it exra special I mean/. I still marvel when you are tlking VISTA technique May I say that in your last picture the 'beast' invoked thoughts with me of something ancient moving on steam? Like an antique harbour crane without the crane arm obviously but still... maybe it's me but I think it also has to do with something deep in my brain that reacts to both the colours and the grainness (? is that English) of the shot

Thanks for the picture
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Old Nov 22 2008, 12:20 PM   #230
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I'm awed. To be honest, I don't understand enough about any of this to ask an intelligent question, but I am really enjoying this peek into this amazing endeavor. Thanks, Steven!
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Old Nov 22 2008, 07:39 PM   #231
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Steven - I love the idea of a telescope at a jaunty angle! Like Bertie Wooster's top hat after a long night out at the Drones Club...

Love you, dearest -

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Old Nov 22 2008, 08:10 PM   #232
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That photo looks like something out of a Jules Verne novel - damnation, can't think which one now......



I recollect now "The Time Machine".
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Old Nov 23 2008, 04:20 AM   #233
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But of course: telescopes ARE time machines.

They let us see how things were, in some cases millions of years ago.
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Old Nov 23 2008, 06:46 AM   #234
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Amazing pictures! More so now that I've seen QoS.
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Old Nov 23 2008, 05:17 PM   #235
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Hi everyone. I'm resting in my room/box/kennel before dinner. It's a lot cooler today than it has been for several days - the thermometer only shows 77F in here instead of the 85F it showed yesterday. So I'm attempting to stay in here and bring you a proper post. Since the humidity is only 5%, I'm cooling off by sitting in front of a fan with wet hair wearing a wet shirt. It works, but I have to reapply the water every 10 minutes. (This is a great place to dry laundry - much faster than a tumbler drier.)

Anyway, back to the VISTA theme: I have been working the in the VLT control room during the day. This is where ESO astronomers control all the telescopes on site. VISTA now has its one console in this massive control room. Here is a picture of the outside of the VLT control building - the nerve centre of VLT operations:

This is the view from the VLT control building, looking down on the clouds:

This is the VLT control room itself:

This huge room is divided into 4 large control zones. There is a zone for each of the four VLT "unit telescopes", a "VLTI" zone from which all four telescopes can be controlled at once (which is used to combine the telescopes together to make an inferferometer - effectively making then behave together like a much bigger telescope). The fifth zone belongs to VISTA. I haven't figured out what the sixth zone is used for yet. Here is the UT1 control zone:

and here is the VISTA zone. This is where VISTA observations will be made once the telescope has become fully operational. At the moment we're using this console area just for testing the software - we're not yet allowed to move the telescope from there. So during the night I'm still working in the VISTA control room I photographed earlier in this thread. Edith, you'll notice this VISTA zone has 12 screens. Will that be sufficient?


Hans, yes the telescope does look like a harbour crane. But it moves much more smoothly. In fact, it's quite surprising how quiet it is when it moves. That's one of the reasons nobody is allowed in the dome when the telescope is being operated. You would be sharing a dark space with a huge heavy object moving very quietly.

Granath, what did you think of Quantum of Solace? Try going to The ESO public web site and click on the link labelled "James Bond at Paranal". Ironically, I can't watch the video interviews from here but the pictures look good.

Time to get out of here and go to dinner. Where's my can of motor oil...?
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Old Nov 23 2008, 05:44 PM   #236
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Default Re: The VISTA Telescope Thread (VTT)

Very interesting and special to be able to look at! Thanks Steven

The control room is not quite looking cosy and homely there but it does look wonderfully efficient!
Personally all those uncluttered desks give me kind of a creepy feeling but I immediately admit that's my problem and not ESO's
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Old Nov 23 2008, 11:30 PM   #237
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Default Re: The VISTA Telescope Thread (VTT)

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Originally Posted by Sandi View Post
I'm awed. To be honest, I don't understand enough about any of this to ask an intelligent question, but I am really enjoying this peek into this amazing endeavor. Thanks, Steven!

This is exactly how I feel...I do wish that I understood enough to ask the smart questions...but I do get such a thrill getting to see something so magnificent. This latest photo is wonderful to get to see...almost as good as getting to see some of the phtoos of what its looking at...
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Old Nov 24 2008, 12:15 PM   #238
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Default Re: The VISTA Telescope Thread (VTT)

Ooh, thanks for the Paranal link Steve!

I'm too old to handle the quick scene changes well (those are meant for 15 year old computer gamers with ADD), so the beginning left me a bit nauseous and dizzy. However, the movie was a lot better than I had feared, given some less than enthusiastic reviews. And I knew I had the Paranal scenes to look forward to near the end of the film. Awesome shots and a truly fantastic place.
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Old Nov 24 2008, 04:57 PM   #239
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Default Re: The VISTA Telescope Thread (VTT)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hans View Post
The control room is not quite looking cosy and homely there but it does look wonderfully efficient!
Personally all those uncluttered desks give me kind of a creepy feeling but I immediately admit that's my problem and not ESO's
Don't worry. The place isn't that efficient. I learned today there is a new phenomenon in that VLT control room - console envy! I arrived at the VISTA console area to discover our two nice console chairs had been replaced by a couple of old crappy ones. I don't know who took our good chairs, but we'll probably end up stealing some back, and the process will continue... So I guess the goings on in the VLT control room are no different from many office buildings.

Granath, the last thing you need is something else to give you nausea. I hope the quick-fire scenes weren't too bad. I'm glad you liked the Paranal scenes at the end. A good thing about that film is that it lets you do is see this place on the big screen (briefly!).
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Old Nov 24 2008, 05:26 PM   #240
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Default Re: The VISTA Telescope Thread (VTT)

Steven, I suggest writing VISTA in very bold, big, white letters on the back of the chairs, with small lettering underneath: "if seen at the wrong console, please return"
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