In the first of these posts I am going to talk about operating the telescope in the winter months and how the cold disrupts our operation.
When snow and ice strike there are lots of visible signs of its presence at the observatory. From the ice build ups visible on the web camera images through to the wildly varying graphs of wind speed, in the days following a winter storm it is very clear why the system is not operating.
In the days that follow the ice melts away, the web cam images return to normal and the weather station charts take on a familiar pattern. Everything appears to return to normal, but the telescope still isn't operating. This is the point at which we start getting lots of contact about why this is the case.
The recent maintenance visit to the observatory coincided with the end of a winter storm, so we have been given a rather unique opportunity to visually show what we never normally get to see.. the striking difference between what we can see on our web cams and the actual state of the site.
|21/02/14: Conditions on site appear to be returning to normal|
Our observatory is located at the western extremity of the OT site, with our dome located at the north western end of our building. There are no buildings beyond our observatory, so we can only have cameras pointed at the southern side of the building.
As we approached the northern aspect of our building it became clear that out of direct sunlight the ice was taking far longer to melt.
|21/02/14: Fallen ice covers the ground on the northern side of the building|
As we moved around the building to the north west side the extent of the ice remaining on the dome was surprising even to us.
|21/02/2014: Large amounts of ice remain on the hidden NW side of the dome|
When we do these tests we generally don't tell the users unless the tests are all successful. When everything is working again, the ice rule in the weather station is reset and the telescope is allowed to resume operation.