Field Journal from Trisha Borgman - 3/26/96


We're well into our observations for the night now. It's beautifully clear here tonight, but VERY windy and cold. I learned a lot today from the one of the observatory techs about how to operate the telescope, and once the sun sank below the horizon I opened the dome for the telescope. Even though that whole process wasn't too much more than pressing the right buttons, it was quite a thrill!!

It took us awhile to get used to the controls and procedures for this telescope, but things are going pretty well now. Unlike the 4-meter telescope I visited last night, this telescope (0.9-meter) is controlled exclusively by the observers--me! At the 4-meter, an "observing assistant" acts as a liaison between the observers and the computers which control the telescope. Here, though, it's just us and the telescope's control systems! I was a little nervous at first about actually being the person to operate the telescope, but now I'm really enjoying it!

One of the neatest things about being here in the "console room" (a room set off from the actual dome of the telescope, in which all the computers and telescope controls are located) is being able to hear the telescope responding to our computer commands. The dome itself makes a deep, loud groan as it turns to follow the telescope, and we can hear the 'click' of the shutter in the telescope at the beginning and the end of our exposures. We can also hear the different filters rotating into place. It almost seems as if we're inside a miniature spaceship, listening to the sounds of our vessel. Well, I guess that's an analogy I could only make at almost 1:00 in the morning!

I hope to go outside in a little while to look at Comet Hyakutake. The moon should be setting soon, so I'll have a great view of it! So far, though, it's been so cold and windy that I just couldn't stay outside too long!

Well, I'm going to go set up our next set of observations! I'll be sure to keep updating y'all about our adventures at Kitt Peak! Have a great day!