Thursday, April 10, 2014

Not all those who wander are lost...

It's been a long time since I've posted anything here because there has been so much to write about that I haven't had time to write! I've been traveling a great deal. Also, for the sake of my family's security, I haven't wanted to post anything that revealed my absence from home as long as I was still absent. Now (April 10) I'm back home at last, and I'm planning to make several posts about interesting experiences I had while traveling. Some of these were actually written (although of course not posted) while I was still abroad – including the one that follows this introduction. It was mostly written over a week ago in Chile, hence its references to my April 6-7 observing run as still in the future. It gives an outline of my travels over the past several months. Here it is:

My last post was written from Canada, in late January. My former boss had moved there, and had invited me and my wife and children to come and stay with him and his family for a couple of weeks while he and I worked on astronomy papers we are writing together. We had a very good time with them. Our children played well together, and were sad to leave.

Less than two weeks after we got home, I had to leave again – this time on a astronomical odyssey spanning two continents and two hemispheres. The barely-possible scheduling was born of writing too many telescope proposals, and having them be too successful (actually, that's impossible, but anyway...)

I flew to Tucson, Arizona to observe from February 17-20 with the 2.1 meter telescope at Kitt Peak, and then on Feb 21 I flew out from Tucson on my way to South America to observe with the 8m Gemini telescope in Chile. There was no time to go home to New York in between: I was scheduled to observe February 23 and 24 at Gemini. Since it takes about 24 hours to get from the Tucson (or pretty much any place in the US) to La Serena, Chile, there was only one day to spare – a pretty small error margin for an intercontinental journey and the most important observing run (at least, the one using the largest telescope) of my life up to now. I had a few adventures on the journey (which I may have time to write about later), and was very grateful to arrive at Gemini. The observations went well, and I flew home by way of Tucson – an illogical route that required two consecutive red-eye flights, but was dictated by the fact that one-way airtickets are so much more expensive than round trips.

I arrived home February 27 – and then flew out again March 5 to observe at Kitt Peak from March 6-13. I got back late March 14, and was able to stay home almost two weeks that time, before flying back to South America on March 26, this time to observe with DECam on the 4m Blanco telescope at Cerro Tololo. I have two runs scheduled with DECam: March 29-30 (the observations went well) and April 6-7. Thus, I'm in Chile as I write, in between the two DECam runs.

You may ask what my dear wife is doing, left at home with four children (and a fifth on the way) while I fly all over the Western Hemisphere using telescopes. She is a very capable and courageous woman, and all of these plans (including the initial telescope proposals) were made with her approval. So she is handling things very well – but will be very glad to have me back. The baby is due May 1, and I have not submitted any telescope proposals for the second half of 2014 – so after this I will be home for a while. This crazy schedule has been sort of a 'last hurrah' of observing for me before the baby comes and such things become much more difficult for a while. That will do for this post for the present – but I hope to post again soon with some highlights from my various trips.