G e o f f  H a i n e s - S t i l e s
Project Director
Friday November 20
"Sunrise...Sunset" on Kitt Peak

Keith Pierce, co-designer of Earth's largest solar telescope, which you can see behind him.
rank took us down inside the telescope, and explained a huge detector nicknamed "Babar", the white elephant, which is one of the most powerful instruments to analyze sunlight in the world. And then-a video crew on the road is merciless!-we would not let him go until he'd rung a Tibetan bell to help bring those sound waves in the Sun to life. By then it was sunset... and we set up our cameras to record day's departure from the mountain. Of course, when you're taping, you're always aware of where the light is coming from (usually into the eyes of your interviewee, it seems!), and we'd noticed its arc across the sky all day. But somehow seeing it set on the other side of our mountaintop, opposite the landmarks we'd come to know so well at dawn, emphasized the round of day and night that had impressed itself on so many of the cultures which have gone before us. (We hope the sunset-calendar activities posted online under the TEACHERS' section will help students gain a similar perspective, as they watch the dramatic changes in the Sun's position as the seasons pass. Just as its disk is anything but featureless, so careful observation brings the yearly round to life.) This night, fortunately, sunset preceded the departure of the cooks, so a fine hot meal completed our productive but quite tiring day!
Detrick Branston, one of the youngest observers working for NSO on Kitt Peak (see BIOGRAPHIES.)

Sunday November 21

Another day, another sunrise-from a different perspective, of course. And then it was time to rendezvous with one of the youngest observers on the mountain, Detrick Branston. This was his day to be in charge of the KP Vacuum Tower Telescope, source of a 20-plus year record of the Sun's magnetic field. Cramped in a tiny elevator, we accompanied him up to the top-stopping along the way to charge the pistons that would open the "clamshell" which protects the mirrors at night and in bad weather. Detrick turned out to be a perfect tour guide for student viewers, explaining the technology and its purposes in direct and completely understandable language, while tweaking mirrors and filters, calibrating their position via a laser beam, clearly relishing the responsibility of being humanity's solar watchman for this day.
Just another spectacular sunset!

By 10:00 we had our sequence, checked out and drove off down to Tucson, to catch our flight to San Francisco. Storm clouds were beginning to roll in, but we'd had perfect weather at Kitt Peak. Which was just as well, since we would not see the Sun for the next 2 days, except in the astonishing close-up images obtained by the TRACE spacecraft, whose makers we would meet at Lockheed Martin in Palo Alto. But that's another Journal... for another day!

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