A Typical Observing Run at Lowell Observatory
This is the guest house. It is in Flagstaff and is known as the Chalet
Here's what the inside looks like. The bedrooms are up
the spiral staircase, and the kitchen is in the back.
Here are a couple of views from in town, near the Chalet
This is the outside of the observatory dome
and the control building
And this is the telescope
Before we can observe, we have to take the cover off of the telescope.
A computer command is given to
bring the telescope down to where the end can be reached. Someone has to
climb a ladder and remove the cover.
Next, the camera has to be cooled down to -110 degrees.
The camera is the black cylinder in the above picture.
It hangs off of the back of the telescope (the telescope
has no eyepiece to look through).
In order to cool the camera to the required temperature we have to fill
it with liquid nitrogen. A hose is run from a large tank to the camera.
The liquid nitrogen is so cold that it freezes the
rubber tube hard as a rock
Eventually, the end of the camera becomes white
After filling the camera, you have to thaw the rubber
tube with a hair dryer in order to remove it from the camera
After a few minutes, the camera temperature (which is displayed on the
camera housing) reaches the desired
Next, we have to open up the slit in the dome so that we can see out. These
two pictures were shot inside the dome.
And these two were shot from outside. Going, going...
After things are set up in the dome, we move back to the control building.
The picture on the left is part of the control room where we do the actual
work. Shown here are the telescope control computer (right) and the camera
control computer (left) The small monitor on the shelf is the "scope
cam," a camera set up in the dome so we can check on the telescope
without actually going into the dome The black box on the shelf is the
stereo/cd player (a must for working all night long). There's also a microphone
on the desk that we can use to talk to people who are in the dome.
The picture on the right is just outside the control room. The control
building has a full kitchen which can be seen at the back of the picture.
This is a close-up of the telescope control computer. We use
this computer to move the telescope from place to place and to
give it other important commands.
This is the camera control computer. We use it to give the camera commands
(such as when to take a picture and how long to take it). We also get to
see the picture on the screen after it has been taken (the black frame
with the white dots on the right is an image that was just taken by the
camera). We use these images to learn about the objects we are observing.
This is a veiw of the scope cam monitor. If we turn on a light in the dome,
we can see the telescope. We use this when we are moving the telescope
to make sure things look OK (we don't want to crash the telescope into
Sometimes the students work hard...
Sometimes they don't...
But I always do!
After everything is up and running, we start taking pictures.We continue
this throughout the night. Sometimes we stay on the same target for hours,
sometimes we look at many different objects. About halfway through the
night we have to refill the camera with nitrogen. After a while, one of
us (usually a student) begins to analyze the images we've been taking using
a third computer in the control room (not shown in this picture). At the
end of the night, we put the cover back on the telescope, close up the
dome, and go back to the chalet for a few hours of sleep. The next night
we do it all over again.