Thursday, August 14, 2008

Return of Laser-Guide Star

This week saw the return of the laser guide-star program to Palomar. In case you missed it I described the program in an earlier post to this blog.

Our laser is back after some work that was done to it back at its birthplace, the University of Chicago. A new laser-launch telescope was also installed and operated for the first time this week.

Three nights engineering time was granted to the laser guide-star team. Engineering time is basically time to work on and improve the performance of the system. The team was very happy with the performance of the system this week and further science operations will take place as scheduled.

Below are a few photos that I took Tuesday night through Wednesday morning this week. As always, you can click on the image for a higher-resolution view.

The view from outside the dome with the laser pointed at Zenith. The setting moon is just out of view to the right, but it provides illumination for some high cirrus clouds.

Here is the interior view with the laser pointed at zenith. The laser is located in the old coude room, it is reflected up the side of the telescope to prime focus. There the beam encounters the laser-launch telescope which broadens the beam and sends it skyward.

Here is the view with the telescope pointed west of zenith.

I was stationed inside the dome where I took over 300 images for the purpose of putting together a time-lapse movie. The laser was operating at 7.5 Watts and eye protection is required at all times.

I was set up right next to the Hale Telescope's webcam which managed to catch me in the act of making an adjustment to my camera. The safety goggles look great, don't they?

Below is the time lapse-movie from this week. You can also view it as a higher resolution Quicktime movie here.

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