Sanity Break

Author’s note: I meant to post this yesterday, but forgot to hit the “publish” button! Oops!

Weather conditions weren’t great on Wednesday either, so we didn’t have the opportunity to observe. On the bright side, the smell of the mountain after it rains has to be one of my new favorites!

Yesterday, we spent the day in Tucson for a “sanity break,” as Dr. Terndrup calls it. I had the opportunity to check out the University of Arizona’s campus and walk through a few shops here and there. The city is full of art and culture; there’s a mural on nearly every wall. I got a picture with a space-related one that I found. It was also nice to eat something that wasn’t made by me on a tiny stove at 2am.

We got back right around sunset and set up both telescopes immediately. I was in charge of the 1.3 meter again, and we both took photometry data all night. I’m not sure if I’ve ever specified what exactly we do when we take photometry data, so I’ll do that now! We’re taking an image of the star we’re observing and those surrounding it. We choose two stars near it that are also rather bright and those become our comparison stars. We measure the brightness of each of the three stars in the image and compare the difference in the brightness between the stars in this image and in the previous images. If the difference is much greater for the target than the average difference of the comparison stars, then we know that the target has actually dimmed, and a cloud hasn’t just rolled over. If the target has dimmed, it is likely an eclipse of the binary system and we can time it!

The humidity was relatively high last night and we had to deal with the consequences. Water droplets began forming on the 2.4 meter telescope, messing with our data collection for a short period. It had looked as if the target was dimming despite it not being time for an eclipse. To fix this, we just had to blow dry nitrogen over it until it dried up.

Today’s plans include: doing laundry. I’m out of shirts. One can only fit so much in a carry-on.

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