Yearly Archives: 2013

Christmas time

As we are getting ready to leave 2013 behind, here are some memories (mostly photographic ones, since I am too lazy to write) about our Christmas. First, our tree (picture from last year), set and lit up by me, then covered with ornaments and szaloncukor by Clio, while I participated in an indoor cycling tournament on the evening after Sinterklaas :)

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Then she made something for our terrace too (shown with the amazing – and this year not so rare – sunshine from December).

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Back in Budapest, we went for lots of nice – but cold – walks, did some shopping, had great meals, and drank special Christmas coffee!

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Waiting for Clio’s favourite winter holiday food, the kürtőskalács on one of the many Christmas markets of the city.

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We had a nice dinner at MÁK bistro (14 points in Gault Millau).

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We even had one day with clear skies and sunshine, so we walked up to the Gellért hill to enjoy the panorama.

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Then we invited my brother and his girlfriend for lunch in ZONA (17 points in Gault Millau).

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Here I tasted a very special dessert wine (Disznókő Szőlőbirtok Sárgaborház Natureszencia 2007), which came in a special glass… It was amazing, a real nectar from the heavens.

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Then we walked up to the Castle district to visit Clio’s favourite spot, the Halászbástya, or as she calls it, the Disney Castle of Budapest.

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A long weekend in Maastricht

We just spent a long weekend in the capital city of the Dutch Limburg, and I also took a few pictures while walking around, shopping, and eating :) The weather was not too good (barely above zero degrees and dense fog on Saturday, instead of the foreseen sunshine…), but that did not stop us from having a really nice time. I think we both agree that the coolest thing in the city is a 13th century Dominican church which is now renovated and converted into a really pretty bookstore. Clio – as always – looked up the best places for breakfast, coffee, lunch, and dinner weeks (ok, maybe days) in advance, so all our meals and drinks were delicious and very satisfying. Just look at the last picture, who could say no to a Ciabatta like that?!? (I should really start running/cycling again, because working, sitting 10 hours a week on my Dutch evening course, playing on the PS3, or getting my ass kicked in Yahtzee does not burn enough calories.)

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Back from La Palma

What time of the day is it? I see that it is bright outside, so it must be during the day, but my biological clock is so screwed up again, I could not tell if it was morning or afternoon… I had enough of this jet lag (or observatory lag in this case) for this year, I am really fed up with it. At the end each of the seven nights went by without major problems and with perfect weather at the Mercator telescope, thus the Master students from Leuven and Amsterdam got plenty of data to work with.

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It is really exceptional that we had such good meteorological conditions in October. As far as I can recall, there were always at least a few nights lost due to rain/clouds in the past years during the weeks of the master students’ observational projects. This time the students from Amsterdam even gave me a bottle of wine for the help I provided them during the past week! That felt really nice, I have to say. This was the first time I got something like this from students :)

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I stayed one more night at the observatory (but not at the telescope) before coming home, which I spent studying my Dutch, trying to go through the lessons I had missed during the past two weeks. Then my taxi to the airport almost did not fit my bike box (we had to leave the trunk open and fix everything with ropes…), and my flight also got a three hour delay. And although I specifically went for a direct connection this time, the leg space is so horribly inadequate on these Thomas Cook flights, that now I really do not know what to do next (because having to change two times with IBERIA is also not one of my favourite things). I wish we could just teleport from one place to the other. The weather back home in Leuven is a bit grey, but this time of the year, this is pretty normal. But it is good to be home again. The rest of this week I will have to catch catch up with my work email, my Dutch class, and try to unpack my bags/bike box… Oh, and sleep…

Fly me to the Mün (a Kerbal Space Program “review”)

I believe that grown ups can be gamers. I do not remember if I have ever written about this topic on this blog, but you might know anyway, that I spend quite some time in front of the PlayStation playing the actual FIFA series in my free time. In this post however, I will talk about something else. I stumbled upon Kerbal Space Program roughly two months ago, and I fell in love with it almost immediately. The game is still in development phase (version 0.21), with updates coming out roughly every two months. Since at this point it lacks carrier mode or missions, you need to figure out yourself what to do, but the main goal is running the space program of the Kerbals, who live on planet Kerbin in the Kerbol System. There are many stock parts available (and an overwhelming amount of community maintained add-ons) to build rockets, landers, rovers, probes, etc. But be careful with your design, because you really need to get your rocket science done correctly (definitely have the cheat sheet nearby, but I think without reading through and following a few tutorials, you will end up crashing your keyboard in madness), since the game is build on a quite realistic physics engine (although aerodynamic drag is not modelled too well so far). You will learn many things about orbital mechanics and actual rocket science while playing (thrust-to-weight ratios, rocket equations, deltaV values, using the navball, orbital manoeuvres, rendezvous and docking, interplanetary travel, aerobraking, and so on). And you are always in control, there is no autopilot. You control the thrusters, the staging, different parts, everything! But instead of going into any further details (which you can anyway look up on-line), let me walk you through my most advanced mission so far. It took at least 3 hours to design, build (using 167 parts), and test, and another 3 hours to fly the mission… (Yeah, long, lonely observing nights… I warn you, do not start playing this if you have only one hour to spare…) I present you Orion-2, a slightly altered Apollo-style mission to the Mün with three Kerbals on board. (Orion-1 was a similar mission, but without a buggy.)

Orion-2 sits on the launch pad, and for clarity I have labelled the different parts. The weather is optimal, there is some wind from the west, but the sky is clear, and lift-off is in ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four… [The game is available for PC, Mac, and Linux, and although the graphics are on purpose a bit cartoony, the following screenshots were taken at display settings which are far from maximal, so on a better computer, things look even much nicer - terrain quality is higher, textures are more detailed, shadows and lighting are better, etc.]

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Comet Lovejoy (C/2013 R1) with MAIA

Since one of the student projects involves imaging comets with the new MAIA camera, and I like to create images for outreach, I present you Comet Lovejoy in false colour.

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Creating a colour image with MAIA (which is far from the main purpose – photometry for asteroseismology – of the camera) is a bit more complicated than it was with MEROPE, since the optical paths leading towards the 3 CCDs are different, which – in practice – means, that the images captured by the 3 CCDs do not overlap perfectly. Unluckily these differences are not linear, so you need to do some proper astrometry to align the three channels in post processing, or use the Auto-Align Layers command in Photoshop (which is highly unprofessional, but results in pretty images rather instantaneously). For this RGB image I used the r+i channel as R, the g as G, and a tricky combination (made using black magic) of the two for B (since in u the number of photons from the comet is in the single digit region).