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Arrival in Hawaii

April 19, 2013

The twin Keck telescopes (left; the Keck II, which we are observing at is in the center) and the IRTF (on the right).
The two telescopes we are observing from, at the summit of Mauna Kea, as seen the night before our observations started. The twin Keck telescopes (left; the Keck II, which we are observing at is in the center) and the IRTF (on the right). Despite the clouds below, from which Maui rises above IRTF, a beautiful clear sky is seen above, suggesting good observing on the nights to come. Credit: Henrik Melin
After a long and tiring journey, flying across continents to get here, we finally arrived at the Keck and InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF) observatories. For the half of us observing at Keck, this meant driving up to the grassy foothills of Waimea, the ranch town where Keck's main control room is remotely hosted. Here, the sky has been covered in cloud, and we often walk through the drizzle whipping past on the way to our offices. Fortunately for us all, this is not the experience of the other half of our group, who have headed up to the summit of Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world, to make their observations from the control room for IRTF, literally attached to dome of the telescope. From there, they can see clear skies above them and our thick clouds as a layer far below.

Our first night has kicked off our observations in fantastic style. We've had a full night of planet watching, with conditions in the sky sometimes reaching the very best you could hope for, with clear and crisp views of Saturn for most of the night. We've measured the wind speeds in the auroral region using IRTF, we've looked at both the auroral and equatorial emission from Saturn from Keck, and while our analysis of this data will take a while to understand, given how clear the night was, we're hopeful of some excellent data.

Now, we're looking forward to the next few nights, in which we're hoping the weather at the summit will hold, and we'll be able to take more great data. We'll be broadcasting live from Keck on our third night, on Sunday April 21, between 13:00-15:00GMT, 9-11am EST. You can join us then at:

For more information and to listen to a podcast, visit:

Dr.Tom Stallard
Lecturer at University of Leicester

The Keck Observatory headquarters in Waimea
The Keck Observatory headquarters in Waimea, from which the telescope is controlled. Despite the clear skies at the summit of Mauna Kea, the fields around us down in Waimea are rich green from the heavy clouds and misty rain. Credit: Keck Observatory, University of Leicester
The view of Saturn from Keck on the first night of observation.
The view of Saturn from Keck on the first night of observation. Other instruments on Keck can produce magnificent views of the planet, but all we are interested in is the light that falls into the thin black line that falls along the center of Saturn, as seen here. It is that light that we are splitting into different wavelengths, to produce detailed spectra from the planet. Credit: Tom Stallard

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