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Old Jul 19 2008, 08:33 PM   #1
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The VISTA Telescope Thread (VTT)

Well, I don't know if this is going to work, but here goes...

I have just today arrived in northern Chile and I'm about to start my contribution to the commissioning of the new VISTA telescope at the European Southern Observatory at Cerro Paranal. It's going to be an extremely intensive few weeks (commissioning trips usually are - we worked 11 hour days the last time I was here), so I don't know how much time I'll get for MoM, but the idea is that if anything interesting happens I'll post it to this thread (or think about posting it on this thread and then wake up and realise it's time for breakfast again ). Whether this thread works also depends on whether I get a room at the residencia (see Kath's "Where in the World" #170) with Internet access or in the "containers" which have worse facilities. I'll find out tomorrow.

I have two ambitions for this trip: 1) Make the telescope work properly; 2) Find an excuse to point the telescope at Rukbat ().

But my first task is to get over the 24 hour journey, with 17 hours of flying and 7 hours of auxilliary airport-related stuff, and get some sleep ....
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Old Jul 19 2008, 10:19 PM   #2
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Hiya sweetie! Some nap!

Sleep well, my dearest. Have fingers crossed for the resedencia - but for now, happy Antofagasta dreams , and keep drinking the bottled water without added arsenic...
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Old Jul 20 2008, 12:35 AM   #3
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Go Steven! Tell us all about it, when you find a spare moment. I'd like to see Rukbat too when you can find it!
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Old Jul 20 2008, 03:11 AM   #4
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Sleep well, and clear skies!
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Old Jul 20 2008, 04:27 AM   #5
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Glad to hear you arrived safe, Steven!

Clear skies indeed! You mentioned Rukbat before so now I've got all extremities crossed Clear skies, Residecia appartment and having the possibility to explore the old archer.

And... yesterday a package arrived at my place! A package that, I might add, contained a lot more than I had expected. Hell, I didn't even expect the package but that's moremy bad memory
As soon as you are rested and have the opportunity we can discuss the details! Thank you so much for your time and going shopping for me in Paris!

I sure hope maintaining this thread wll be possible. I think it's a fantastic idea!

A side effect willbe that it'll also generate some traffic for MoM because it will turn up on Google soon and everybody think it'll be a Window Vista topic and there's millions who want to discuss that, I think
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Old Jul 20 2008, 04:57 AM   #6
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Oh dear me yes. That's what I thought it was when I clicked on the thread.
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Old Jul 20 2008, 06:09 AM   #7
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Poor Steven, maybe you need to rewrite that as "VISTA TELESCOPE" perhaps, instead of "VISTA" telescope! We at MoM know that you're an astronomer but for those who also use Windows Vista could be confused too. I see Hans' point about it! Hope all goes well over there and all clear skies!
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Old Jul 20 2008, 06:21 AM   #8
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But Vista isn't capitalised the same way as VISTA! Isn't it obvious?

[To answer my own question, no! But hey, we like our acronyms in astronomy!]
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Old Jul 20 2008, 06:35 AM   #9
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That distinctio isn't made by google nor by the average google-user

It's no problem though!

Even without having anything to do with astronomy I like teir acronyms too. Well, more the funny names behind them!
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Old Jul 20 2008, 08:34 AM   #10
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Glad you had a safe journey, and fingers are crossed that you aren't stuck in a "container" and get the chance for a peek at Rukbat!

Clear skies!
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Old Jul 20 2008, 10:02 AM   #11
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Hi everyone. Thanks for your good wishes. I catch the bus which takes me to the observatory in just over an hour. I had forgotten about the name clash with Windows Vista. It was unfortunate that Microsoft chose to copy the name of our telescope. I renamed my post title but that hasn't renamed the thread. Hans and Cheryl, perhaps you could rename this thread to "The VISTA telescope thread".

Observing Rukbat will be a challenge. I just received as memo today saying that, as the telescope is moving out of its debugging phase, all obsevations have to be planned and agreed in advance. So I'm here just a few days too late to sneak in an extra observation of Rukbat. I'll have to think of devious ways of including it in the plan.

I had better start packing. Thanks again for all your good wishes.

Hans, I'm glad the package arrived. Surprise! That should create a book collectors thread perhaps?
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Old Jul 20 2008, 11:40 AM   #12
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Yes, Steven, the package does merit a thread in the collectors forum

Safe journey up by bush!
And good luck with the plans, they can't be devious enough as far as I am concerned

I've renamed the thread
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Old Jul 20 2008, 12:43 PM   #13
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Steven, may your work go well and your wish come true
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Old Jul 20 2008, 01:04 PM   #14
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Glad your trip went good and your there safely. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip and any "accidental" bonus observations
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Old Jul 20 2008, 05:48 PM   #15
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You must be one of those people blessedly resistant to jet-lag problems. If I tried to take a trip like that it would take me the first couple of days to get my mind in gear and by then it'd be time to start getting ready to leave. I hope you enjoy your time there and that you are able to complete all your planned tasks.
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Old Jul 20 2008, 07:03 PM   #16
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Hi everyone. I am safely installed in my room at the residencia. (They didn't put me in one of the containers after all. I think that was a threat they make every now and then to make sure everybody obeys the residencia rules.).

I finished my first day's work. It was rather a short one because it's my first day and I'm suffering now simultaneously from the jet lag and altitude at the same time. Sandi, no I'm not resistant to jet lag, but I know a lot of people who are (some of them are working with me at the moment). I can usually fend it off sufficiently to get to wherever I need to be, but eventually the need for sleep catches up with me, and I start getting clumsy (and they definitely don't want anyone that clumsy playing with a brand new telescope!).

I didn't do a lot today; just caught up with what everyone else has been doing and installed a new version of the software I prepared last week in Edinburgh. I'm about to have dinner and then go to bed. The others will be going back up to the telescope to work the night shift. Good luck to them. I may try that tomorrow night.

My messages may start to get shorter from this point. That's because the normal working hours for the techies are going to be 2pm to 1am (11 hours), which doesn't leave much time for anything else more than sleep. (The project scientists have a later shift so they can work through more of the night if you're wondering what happens after 1am.)
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Old Jul 20 2008, 07:18 PM   #17
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Steven my love - glad you're starting to settle in. Hope you sleep like the proverbial log and wake refreshed (hah!) tomorrow morning, so you can get stuck in.

I'm off to bed now too, waking early tomorrow to finish getting ready for guests. Miss you! Goodnight, love.
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Old Jul 20 2008, 08:25 PM   #18
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Hi Lanen . Lovely to hear from you. You're waking earlier while I'm trying to wake later so I can move to the evening shift, so our time zones will be moving even further apart . Have a great time with the guests.

I'm back from dinner. I brought a card reader with me so I can extract photographs directly from my camera and save them on my laptop. Here's a picture of my room, as it was earlier today when I first moved into it. Recognise this Kath?



As you can see, although the reception area is amazingly luxurious with its simulated rain forest and swimming pool (see Kath's picture in "Where in the World" #170) the rooms here are quite basic. But they are perfectly comfortable for working and sleeping - especially as you don't actually spend much time in the room.

As well as working on the telescope, I would like to take some more pictures of the amazing night sky here. I posted one I took last year in an earlier thread, but I'd like to do better this time. If I get a good picture I'll post it here as well.
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Old Jul 20 2008, 08:34 PM   #19
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Hello Steven...I am so glad that we are going to have this thread to hopefully keep up with all the inceedingly interesting things you will be doing and seeing. I hope that you can get pleanty of sleep...and eat well so as to keep your strength up. Stay Safe, enjoy your work...and let us hear from you as often as time will allow.
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Old Jul 21 2008, 03:09 AM   #20
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GOOD LUCK, hope all goes well at Vista, try to enjoy the few spare moments you get and let us know what's happening. Best wishes!
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Old Jul 21 2008, 01:55 PM   #21
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Good luck! Those quarters look luxurious compared with the residence I spent six months at in France... Good luck with recovering from jet lag. I hope you can sneak a peek at Rukbat too.
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Old Jul 21 2008, 07:58 PM   #22
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Hey Steven, Nick says if you run into problems, call Paul Cox over at la Deheca ...he swears the man is a Mcgyver of scopes.
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Old Jul 21 2008, 10:06 PM   #23
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Best of luck Steven from a Georgia Backyard Astronomer - No small task ahead of you, wish I were there. Now is the ideal time to image Rukbat from here.

Cheers from K9 Observatory
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Star
HR 7851 HD195774
Flamsteed Number: 46
Bayer Letter: OME2
Constellation: Cygnus
Visual Magnitude: 5.44
Color Index: 1.55
Spectral Class: M2IIIab
Annual Proper Motion: 0.012 -0.028
Ruchba; Rukbat al-dajajah; Al Rukbah al Dajajah

J2000 RA: 20h31m18.80s DE:+49°13'13.0"
Date RA: 20h31m34.61s DE:+49°14'58.1"

My home 2008-7-16 20h52m ( TU + -4h00m )
Sideral Time : 14h59m
Hour Angle : 18h27m
Azimuth :+47°23'
Altitude :+28°16'

Rise : 17h11m Azimuth:+25°04'
Culmination : 2h29m
Set : 11h48m Azimuth:+334°56'
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Old Jul 22 2008, 03:12 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Piper0301 View Post
Best of luck Steven from a Georgia Backyard Astronomer - No small task ahead of you, wish I were there. Now is the ideal time to image Rukbat from here.

Cheers from K9 Observatory
Piper

Star
HR 7851 HD195774
Flamsteed Number: 46
Bayer Letter: OME2
Constellation: Cygnus
Visual Magnitude: 5.44
Color Index: 1.55
Spectral Class: M2IIIab
Annual Proper Motion: 0.012 -0.028
Ruchba; Rukbat al-dajajah; Al Rukbah al Dajajah

J2000 RA: 20h31m18.80s DE:+49°13'13.0"
Date RA: 20h31m34.61s DE:+49°14'58.1"

My home 2008-7-16 20h52m ( TU + -4h00m )
Sideral Time : 14h59m
Hour Angle : 18h27m
Azimuth :+47°23'
Altitude :+28°16'

Rise : 17h11m Azimuth:+25°04'
Culmination : 2h29m
Set : 11h48m Azimuth:+334°56'
Pssst! Wrong Rukbat!

You want the one in Sagittarius!
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Old Jul 22 2008, 09:11 AM   #25
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Oops,

Well it is not the first time I've triped over my tounge, or in this case my star charts, and I'm sure it won't be the last. I can still target and image Sagittarius from here, so I'll give it a try if the weather improves. I believe I still like the M class Rukbat over the B class Rukat for finding rocky planets. Thanks for putting me stright on that.

Star
HR 7348 HD181869
Flamsteed Number:
Bayer Letter: Alpha
Constellation: Sagittarius
Visual Magnitude: 3.97
Color Index: -0.10
Spectral Class: B8V
Annual Proper Motion: 0.030 -0.123
Rukbat; Rucba; Rukbat al Rami; Alrami

J2000 RA: 19h23m53.20s DE:-40°36'58.0"
Date RA: 19h24m28.60s DE:-40°35'56.5"

My home 2008-7-16 20h52m ( TU + -4h00m )
Sideral Time : 14h59m
Hour Angle : 19h34m
Azimuth :+135°38'
Altitude :-04°50'

Rise : 21h31m Azimuth:+140°02'
Culmination : 1h22m
Set : 5h13m Azimuth:+219°58'

Cheers
Piper...
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Old Jul 22 2008, 10:23 AM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Piper0301 View Post
I believe I still like the M class Rukbat over the B class Rukat for finding rocky planets.
Oh, probably so! Anne chose the star she did because she liked the name, not because it was the right class of star to more likely support a planetary system. But indeed it definitely is the one in Saggitarius she chose; the prologues to the stories specifically mention it being in the Saggitarius sector.


Steven -- I'm so glad to hear you were placed in the Residencia and not stuck in a container!
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Old Jul 22 2008, 10:44 AM   #27
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Hi folks. The working hours here are even longer than I expected, so please forgive the occasional silence. I worked from 10am to 1am yesterday (i.e. 15 hours! ), and I'm about to do the same again. I have a photo of the telescope I'll put up when I get more than 10 minutes.

It was a very useful day/night yesterday. I'll explain more later. The others here are insisting on using standard 2MASS fields for testing VISTA, rather than going for Rukbat. But I'm still hopeful. It will only take a 1 second exposure to capture Rukbat with VISTA. By the way, 2MASS fields have been observed with other survey telescopes, so they are full of standards which can be used to calibrate the VISTA telescope.

I'll explain more later. Off to breakfast and then more commissioning...

Thanks for all your good wishes.
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Old Jul 22 2008, 06:59 PM   #28
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Here is the picture I took of the VISTA telescope inside its enclosure yesterday:

The telescope is now fully assembled. You can just about see the reflections off the 4 metre primary mirror if you look deep into the telescope. The gigantic silver-grey cylinder sticking out of the front of the telescope is the secondary mirror unit. It contains the secondary mirror together with electronics for moving and adjusting the mirror, plus baffles to prevent stray light getting in. The window you can see under the secondary mirror unit is entrance window for the infra red camera. VISTA is the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, but it's very much an infrared telescope at the moment.

I'm about to start another night of testing, except it's cloudy outside at the moment. If the clouds aren't too thick we might still be able to see some bright stars through the clouds. I'll let you know how the testing goes (and if I manage to capture Rukbat).

Off to dinner now...
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Old Jul 22 2008, 07:07 PM   #29
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That is one nice looking scope . Steve I hope things go well for you.
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Old Jul 22 2008, 07:28 PM   #30
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That's so very cool. My hubby would be having envy, we've just got a little backyard telescope. But, he's at Space Camp for Educators this week so I don't think anything can beat that

Thanks for sharing all this cool stuff with us
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Old Jul 22 2008, 08:22 PM   #31
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This is an awesome thread. At one point, I wanted to be an astronomer. Alas, my strength doesn't seem to lie in the Math's and Science's. But it is still interesting to follow the news.
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Old Jul 22 2008, 08:28 PM   #32
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Oh wow, that looks awesome, all shiny and new!
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Old Jul 22 2008, 08:41 PM   #33
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Steven, thanks for the picture! I'm awed by that thing. Do you find yourself tip-toeing when you're near it?

Pam, is that the Space Camp in Huntsville, AL? I took my daughter on a weekend trip there when she was a kid. We thorougly enjoyed it, especially the old space station (I think that was on a bus tour to Redstone) and the I=Max movie. From what I understand a lot has changed and a lot of improvements have been made since then. I think they've built a museum now that houses some of the rockets and things that used to be outside in the weather.
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Old Jul 23 2008, 03:10 AM   #34
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Default Re: The VISTA Telescope Thread (VTT)

Hi folks. It's 2am, I just finished work, and instead of going to bed I connect to MOM to find these lovely messages . Thanks everyone.

Sandi, Your'e right. I do tend to tiptoe around the telescope. When it's being used it's sensitive to vibration so that's understandable. But when it's just sitting there parked it shouldn't matter, but it does have a presence when you're in the enclosure with it.

Blue Rider, have you thought of becoming a space illustrator, like the guy who makes those amazing paintings for "The Sky at Night"? That doesn't require any science - just a good imagination.

Pam, wow a Space Camp! Ok, you have some two-way envy now. That sounds great.

I have just returned from a session working on the telescope's active optics system, which makes sure all the telescope mirrors keep their correct shape and remain aligned when the telescope moves around the sky. (Moving and bending mirrors isn't a problem for a backyard telescope, but for something this big the mirrors tend to sag under their own weight.) The active optics system works rather like having a session at the optician/optometrist. It makes an adjustment to the telescope mirrors every few seconds and then asks the image analysis system if it made the images better or worse. But one improvement this system has over someone's eyesight being examined at an optician is that the image analysis can predict exactly what amount of mirror tweaking will make things better, so the result much is more exact. The active optics system ensures the telescope always gives the highest image quality. That's the theory anyway, but often errors in the system will cause it to make things worse. That's when the debugging becomes necessary...

Time for bed now. Goodnight...
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Old Jul 23 2008, 03:25 AM   #35
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Default Re: The VISTA Telescope Thread (VTT)

Goodnight Steven. Wow, that is an impressive telecope indeed and we are priviledged to see it. Thanks for posting the picture, nice to see it from the inside for a change

Hope all goes well, work and restwise, and loving your "running" telescope commentary
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Old Jul 23 2008, 09:09 AM   #36
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Nice image of the equipment Steven - it certainly has given me a case of aperture fever. I'm not sure I'd want to regularly collimate that beast. Best of luck in your calibrations and setup and I'm looking forward to reading about your upcoming adventures roaming the southern skies. Recent storms here have prevented me from opening the roof on K9 Observatory.

Cheers from K9 Observatory
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Old Jul 23 2008, 01:38 PM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandi View Post
Pam, is that the Space Camp in Huntsville, AL?
It is indeed the Space Camp in Huntsville. I think there's only the one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StevenB View Post
Pam, wow a Space Camp! Ok, you have some two-way envy now. That sounds great.
It's shocked a lot of people that Space Camp has programs for adults. Hubby is doing the program for educators, but they have it for non-educators too. He seems to be enjoying himself, though he's annoyed at the level of competency of the people teaching the educator specific parts. He teaches 8th grade (13-14 year olds) earth science, which includes Astronomy and most of the stuff seems to be aimed at people teaching much younger students. Yesterday they got to see the debriefing of the latest shuttle crew live. And he says he looks pretty silly in his Space Camp flight suit (he's 6'6", almost 300 pounds.)
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Old Jul 23 2008, 04:05 PM   #38
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Steve, What a picture! I think Nick is a bit jealous. Dnacer is sitting here drooling....her comment" the missions we could do on THAT, Mommy!" LOL
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Old Jul 24 2008, 01:39 PM   #39
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Hello folks. It's 12:20pm here, and I'm up and getting ready to go to lunch and start another long day/night's work. Yesterday I worked from 11am until 3pm. I'm not going to do that again . We're gradually moving from day shift to night shift by extending the finishing time and getting up a bit later each day. When commissioning you need to work day and night - night to test the telescope and day to fix the problems you discovered the previous night. I need to be cloned .

I spent another night working on the active optics. Here are a couple of examples to show you what I was looking at last night:

Above is a diagnostic image from the VISTA High Order Wavefront Sensor. There are 6 different images. The top two are out of focus pictures of a real star as it appeared on the wavefront sensor. The left hand one is on the near side of focus and the right hand one is on the far side. These images appear like doughnuts because they are showing the secondary mirror unit (the big silver grey cylindrical thing on the earlier picture of the telescope) blocking the light from the centre of the primary mirror. The second row of two images shows the software's best fit to the two real images. The best fit corresponds to a set of distortions that the software thinks it has found in the mirrors. The bottom show shows the difference between the real images and the fit, and the picture below shows my High Order Wavefront Sensor control screen. The bottom right corner shows the set of mirror distortions calculated by the software.

In theory, the software then tells the telescope mirrors to adjust themselves and we get perfect images. In practise, this takes a lot of debugging because every parameter might contain a hidden sign error or rotation error. I'm still persevering.

Tonight we plan to take another look at the telescope pointing model. Our telescope expert comes back from his descanso (brief holiday) today. The pointing model tells the telescope what to do in order to point to a particular star. Last night we kept having to adjust the telescope manually, so getting the model up to date will save us a lot of time.

Time for lunch. I'll bring more news the next time I get some free time.
All the best everyone.
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Old Jul 24 2008, 01:49 PM   #40
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P.S. This observatory is where they filmed part of the new Bond movie "Quantum of Solace" (see Kath's "Where in the World" thread for more info). The film crew left behind this souvenir for the astronomers here:

The caption says "To all stargazers at ESO Paranal. Thank You."
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