Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Things you never knew about NASA IRTF

Three things you never knew* about the NASA Infra-Red Telescope Facility (IRTF), in the first 22 seconds of DiscoveryHD's "Super Comet: After the Impact."

*You never knew them because, well, they're totally wrong.

1. NASA IRTF is about the 37th largest observatory in the world, by mirror diameter (the most common way of ranking things). It wasn't even the largest when it was first built - the Hale 5-meter at Palomar had been in use for thirty years. Interestingly, the Keck Observatory, next door to NASA IRTF, was the largest in the world from 1992 until August of 2007, and this show was almost certainly produced during that time. Maybe Keck wouldn't let them film. :)

2. When the scene changes, we're no longer on Mauna Kea at all, but at Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, on La Palma in the Canaries. The silver dome in the background is probably the Nordic Optical Telescope, and the building in the immediate foreground may be the Galileo National Telescope. (Some latter scenes are definitely shot at the TNG.)

3. NASA IRTF is built on a single level, so there is no stairway with multiple flights of stairs for anyone to run up.

I suppose I could argue that driving to work on Mauna Kea also isn't "a routine commute," and I don't look forward to tourists coming out expecting the road to be paved all the way up because they saw a paved road on television...

Anyway, even though this is a dramatized documentary (docudrama? dramamentary? dromedary?) it does claim to be based on the latest science, and one might expect the Science channel to average slightly fewer errors per minute of video. :(

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Geneva to Berkeley in one (very long) "day"


After posting photos of Geneva on Sunday afternoon, I wandered around a bit more in the dark to get some photos by night.  The big tall waterspout thing I had seen in the day turned out to be illuminated at night, which made for an interesting scene.  I could also see Cathédrale Saint-Pierre across Lake Geneva in the old part of the city.

Once that was accomplished, I wandered back over to the youth hostel and got a little bit of sleep, then my friend Gaëlle at CERN gave me a ride to the Geneva airport in her 1986 BMW 316 at 5:30 AM for my 7:00 AM flight out.  Thanks, Gaëlle!

The flight from Geneva to Amsterdam was uneventful.  I slept a good portion of it.  I also slept some on the flight from Amsterdam to San Francisco, since I had already seen two of the three movies they showed.  We got  great aerial views of Iceland and the Bay Area, including the Golden Gate Bridge.

Iceland from the air.

The Golden Gate Bridge from the air.

I ended up having dinner at Triple Rock in Berkeley with some friends I was visiting - had a very yummy hamburger and some fries and lemonade.

Triple Rock's sign.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why you *always* take your camera: A380 spotting!

I flew from Lyon to Amsterdam this morning.  It was a fairly short, fairly uneventful flight on KLM, aboard a little Fokker 70 jet.  I had my camera with me (of course), and got a window seat (on the two-across left side of the plane), so I was snapping a few photos of random other small planes taxiing off to the runway.

Once we got pushed back and started our own taxi, though, we pulled into line ahead of a non-small plane.  A very non-small plane.  Specifically, a factory-grey Airbus A380, presumably still doing its test flights. 

I felt like I was on the little fish in the cartoons that has the huge fish just behind it, about to eat it whole!

Anyway, I got a few shots of it from different angles. :)

Why I'm leaving Twitter.

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