Field Journal from Trisha Borgman - 3/25/96


Well, right now I'm in the console room for the 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak. We actually arrived here last night (tonight is the first night of our run). My boss is also here for a 3-night run on the 4-meter telescope, so last night I went up to the 4-meter and tagged along with him for most of the night.

At the beginning of last night, it was much too cloudy for his galaxy observations, so we took many images of Comet Hyakutake. Have you been able to see it? I've been watching it for several nights from my backyard in Phoenix, and it's been spectacular. Even from our house on the outskirts of town, we could easily see it with the naked eye. It looked like a little, fuzzy cotton ball, and it moved quickly prepared me for the view I saw last night.

Like I said, it was fairly cloudy at dusk yesterday. We could see the comet, but not very well. By 10:00 pm or so, the view was spectacular! I could easily see the entire comet, and the tail stretched almost halfway across the night sky. It was beautifully bright! I remember seeing Halley's comet back in 1985 (I was in 5th grade then), but we could barely see it at all. I've never seen anything like last night's view of Hyakutake. I have a feeling that I will remember everything I saw last night for the rest of my life...

Anyway, I stayed in the 4-meter telescope with my boss for several hours, just watching everything he did. Even though it took 15 minutes for each of his exposures, I had a lot of fun! By the time I went to sleep at 2:30 am, the comet was streaking across the sky with an unbelievable brilliance.

Today I have been learning more about how to operate the 0.9-meter. Dusk here on the mountain is at about 6:45 pm, so we'll finish taking our calibration images (remember the images I talked about earlier--the ones which remove the "signatures" of the telescope itself? Those are the images I'm talking about now). It will take about an hour and a half to complete all of those exposures, so we'll start those soon then go down to the cafeteria for dinner. And as soon as it's dark, we'll start taking our pictures for the catalog!

I've already learned so much, and I am so fortunate to be here (especially while Comet Hyakutake is at its peak!) -- I just keep pinching myself to make sure I'm not just dreaming!

I will write more after our observations tonight!