Monthly Archives: September 2010

4th night at the IAC-80

The fourth night was finally photometric, with low humidity (8-20%) and stable seeing, so I could observe the targets from our main program. (Yeehaw!) The start of the night was a bit scary though, as the humidity went up to 86 percent during dinner, but then, in one hour it dropped down below 15%. I have never seen such a rapid change in my life. Anyway, just to show something new, I merged some frames together from the footage of the 3rd night, to create photos with star trails.


Thanks to the perfect conditions, the time lapse video of this night is probably the most boring one, but it is still quite nice, I think. And if you watch carefully, you may notice a bright meteor just above the Teide around moonrise. Ok, for the lazy ones, and those, who want to have a look lasting longer than 1/24 seconds, I show you the frame with the shooting star.


This night is not mine, so I am at the residencia, but I have to stay awake if I do not want to mess up my night/day rhythm. Which you do not want to do in the middle of an observing run, believe me…

3rd night at the IAC-80

Finally, the third night brought good weather over Tenerife. The humidity was still not low enough to have cloudless skies (so no photometric conditions), but what is not good for astronomy, that can be perfect for photography. The clouds at the peak of the Teide were amazing.


And as the sunset came closer, the colors and shapes kept changing continuously. Then – as almost every day – the shadow of the volcano was again visible over the sea towards Gran Canaria as the Sun moved below the side of the mountain. Yes, what you see below is the shadow of the mountain’s slope (the dark rays from the middle towards the top right)!


There were some clouds during the night, but not that many – most of the time only the Teide’s lenticular cloud was hanging over the moonlit landscape. I made a time lapse again, which can be seen here. I have some nice things to show in tomorrow’s post already (it was really hard not to include it right now)!


2nd night at the IAC-80

Ok, the second night was not good for science. Again. This is a bit strange, as I usually do not have 2 consecutive nights of bad weather. As far as I can remember, it only happened once, during a really harsh winter in Hungary. Anyway, the humidity was too high to operate the telescope (80-100%).


But at least, the atmosphere started to clear up, and the dust was gone already, so I had high hopes about the forthcoming night (which happens to be right now, when I write this – and yes, I was right, we are getting data at the very moment). Still, as it was not sure, that the humidity would stay high all night, we stayed at the telescope. In the third quarter of the night, some clouds came from the NW, and stayed until sunrise, creating a beautiful background for my pictures.


Finally, for the first time since I am on the island, I could see Grand Canaria and La Palma in the distance (as the atmosphere became clean enough for it). There were amazing lenticular clouds on the sky again, formed by the uplift from the slopes of the Teide volcano.


I really wanted to leave as soon as the time lapse of the night was finished (though I made a minor mistake after I changed the batteries for the first time during the night, the video can be seen here), but I could not, as the landscape was so amazing, that I had to take pictures for like a half hour until I finally managed to go down to the residencia.


There – thanks to the guy at the kitchen (not the chef, but the one who usually works as the “waiter” there) – I had a really good, typically Spanish sandwich with smoked ham and tomatoes for breakfast, then I went to sleep. Yeah, sleeping from 9:00 to 17:00 is normal for an astronomer ;) And before I forget; you can find all the pictures I have taken so far on my flickr gallery here. I try to update it every day with a selection…

1st night at the IAC-80

Yesterday I had my first night at the IAC-80 telescope. Here – for the first time in my life – I have a night assistant working with me, so it is very strange that there are things I do not have to care about anymore. (Even if I like to do everything at the telescope…)


Anyway, the night did not start well, as we had a lot of clouds, and the humidity was also quite high, so after a GRB follow up observation (already through short-lived holes on the cloud layer – done by the IAC staff), we had to close everything… But the sky was really magnificent right after the sunset.


There were some orographic clouds (lenticular clouds generated by the uplift of the Teide volcano), staying at the exact same position for hours, creating wonderful photo-opportunities. (Yes, this night was a disaster for science, but a blessing for photography.) And the whole landscape was lit by the moonlight, which turns night-time pictures to day-time photographs, but with stars on the sky! (I have a time lapse movie also covering almost the whole night here.)


Unluckily the clouds stayed, then by the time the sky finally cleared up, the humidity shot well above the 80% limit… So one hour before the dawn the sky was 100% clear, but the humidity was also 100%… I have never seen such a weather situation. This is really atypical for this time of the year on Tenerife. Though I was very tired by the end of the night, I stayed till the sunrise, because I knew the lights would be perfect then for photos like the one below ;)


First days at the Observatorio del Teide

After finishing the internal version (ready to be sent to the co-authors) of my first paper on Wednesday evening after weeks of hard work (even on weekends) and iteration with my supervisors, I had to pack in for a full moth, as I was getting ready to leave for two observing runs and for some holidays to the Canary Islands. As always, packing took ages, so I had no sleep at all before my taxi arrived at 5 on the morning. The most difficult part was packing my racing bike to its bike box, because everything had to be placed very carefully, to avoid any possible damage during the flights. (The wheels were placed on top of the whole stuff in separate wheel-bags, but still into the bike box).


At the end (after I had to reopen the box – at which point I was swearing a bit – because I forgot to put the big pump inside…), I had 60 kg of luggage (and I even had to leave my tripod at home, because it really did not fit in anywhere): 32 kg in the bike box (as the box itself weights 12 kg, plus the bike is 8 kg, plus I put in some other stuff too to save space in my normal bag), 22 kg as normal check-in luggage, and 6 kg in my hand luggage. (And I had to pay only 75 € for the bike box, and nothing else. Luckily.) I took the Iberia flight to Madrid at 8 AM, then another from the same company to Tenerife after waiting two and a half hours at the airport. (I still love airports like this one.)


Luckily, as the original plan was only one and a half hour, and I was a bit afraid, that the bike box will not make it in time from one plane to another… A managed to get some sleep during the flights, but I was still extremely tired upon arriving to the Canaries. (And then it came to my mind that I will have to do the same endless packing three times again in the coming month… But OK, I stop complaining.) After collecting my normal luggage, I had to go down one floor to pick up my bike box, but that floor was completely deserted – with only a few lights turned on, endless baggage claim areas with no people around at all, and then, at the very end of the area, my bike box rolled out on its own, alone. With no personnel or anyone around. It was a bit scary… Then as I stepped outside, I was shocked by the 28°C air temperature, so I took off some clothes (:P) and headed to the taxi area as fast as I could. There, the taxi drivers were the ones under a slight shock, as they realized, that all this luggage was mine, and there was no other person traveling with me :D But no worries, everything fit in perfectly (with the rear seats leaned forward), and we were on our long way up to the observatory in no time. It was still early afternoon when I arrived and checked in at the Residencia of the Observatorio del Teide. (I might consider learning Spanish instead of Dutch, if I want to get a job after my PhD as a support astronomer somewhere…) I even met two Hungarians, which was a nice surprise! As I was extremely tired, I had not done anything later that day, except that I assembled my bike, and unpacked all my bags. Yesterday I woke up at around midday, and after a nice lunch, I went for a relatively short acclimatization ride on the afternoon. (GPS details here.) My policy is the following: as I am on a work trip here, I only go cycling on those days, when I have no observing duties on the following night (because I might be in a good shape, but staying up all night and working with expensive equipment is not something you want to do tired).


First I went down to 2000 meter towards the NE (passing the famous colorful curves of the TF-24 road – see picture above), than I turned back, and climbed up almost to the point where I started, but as I felt still quite strong and I had still a lot of water in my bottles, I decided to ride a bit to the other direction on TF-21 towards the Teide volcano. It was really nice, with slopes between 4 % and 12 % (with 7-8 % most of the time).


I made two short videos about the roads and the scenery from the bike, which are not the best quality (as I had only my compact camera with me), but they can be seen here and here. It is worth checking them anyway, as you can see how my new cycling glasses fit me :) I think they are extremely cool ;D The road quality is not the best everywhere, but it is generally OK. There are silk-smooth parts, and there are places, where one have to be a bit more careful… After 50 km and 1000 meter of elevation gain, I arrived back well before lunch, so I had time to take a shower and check my mail before I joined the others at the table. Later that night I tried to stay up as late as possible (watching TV series on my MacBook) to shift my rhythm from day to nigh-time, but I had to go to bed already at 3 AM. Still I think it is OK, as I managed to sleep till midday today, so by the end of the forthcoming night, the shift will be complete. Now I am praying for good weather, because the last nights were a complete disaster for the previous observers, and we need data badly…