Travelogue -- OSETI Goes to the Telescope!
Into the Truck
Our OSETI observing instrument is basically simple -- here's the complete
setup on a cart, ready to load into the back seat of my Corolla. That's
Jonathan Wolff, the guy who actually built most of the thing, looking
slightly dazed, but basically happy that it's ready to try out. The
computer (running Linux) controls the experiment through a serial port.
It's October 19, 1998, a brilliantly crisp autumn day in New England.
Into the Dome
Less than an hour after leaving the Lyman Laboratory of Physics at Harvard,
the birthplace of the apparatus, we're at the Oak Ridge Observatory in the
small town of Harvard, Massachusetts. Chip Coldwell (the brains of the
computer code) and Jonathan carry the 60 pound "camera" into the dome of
the 61" Wyeth telescope. That's Jonathan's cider, fresh from the orchard
that borders the observatory in this rural setting 40 miles northwest of
Onto the Telescope
Jonathan and Chip are bolting the camera onto the echelle spectrograph, the
primary instrument on the telescope. Our camera gets about 1/3 of the
light coming into the telescope. In this view you can see the echelle
camera with its ribbon cables, white refrigeration hoses, and guide camera.
Various counterweights are visible in this shot, as is the "finder"
telescope at top right.
Ready to Go
The OSETI camera is mounted and ready to go! The crew here (from left to
right) consists of Robert Stefanik (astronomer, observatory director), Joe
Zajac (astronomy, computers, electronics), Cos Papaliolios (astronomer,
professor), Chip Coldwell (graduate student, computer guy), and Jonathan
Wolff (master of all trades). The telescope is completely computer
controlled, but in this shot you can see the ancient manual control console
in the foreground -- it looks like something you'd find in a WWII
submarine. The telescope is equatorially mounted, as all such instruments
were in the 1930's when this one was built; you can see the giant
declination gear and indicator.
The OSETI camera is here shown bolted to the echelle spectrograph, and all
wired up. Actually there's hardly anything connected to it -- just an AC
power cord and an RS-232C serial cable back to the computer in the control
room about 50 feet away. The proud daddy here is Paul Horowitz, who
describes himself as a "fallen physicist."
Here's the cozy control room, tucked in the northwest corner of the building.
That's Robert Stefanik, the observatory director, standing behind Chip Coldwell
(left) and Jonathan Wolff (right). You can see a stellar spectrum on the
monitor at right, and various observing parameters on the monitor in the
middle of the picture. We like hanging out in the control room because it's
nice and warm, and you can eat snacks, watch football, and surf the web while
the telescope does its thing out there in the cold dark dome.