Un observatorio sobre un volcán (I): Mauna Kea

David ByN
Un inicio de año único… me encuentro en el observatorio de Mauna Kea, a 4200 metros sobre el nivel del mar. El sitio es incomparable, El Mauna Loa (creo que el volcán más grande en volumen) en el horizonte, el inmenso mar de nubes 2000 metros más abajo. Sin embargo …


No ha sido éste un comienzo de año para recordar. No es inusual observar en fin de año. Pero tanto Amelia, que ahora trabaja en el observatorio de Paranal en Chile y que ha venido solo para esta campaña de tres días con Subaru, el telescopio nacional de Japón, de 8 metros, como yo, no pensaremos en el cambio de año con cariño.

A pesar de no comer la misma comida, los dos empezamos a sentir intensos dolores musculares, un gran malestar general, y fue muy complicado observar durante la primera noche, el primer día de año. Hubo ciertos momentos en los que pensé en renunciar y bajarnos a la residencia a dormir. Claro que los astrónomos nos aferramos con avaricia a los fotones, así que resistimos pese a todo. Renunciar a  una noche de observación casi perfecta en uno de los telescopios más potentes del mundo no se hace por cualquier razón.

El telescopio, en cualquier caso, es una maravilla tecnológica, y el programa avanza. Queremos identificar enanas marrones muy frías, de tipo espectral T, que se caracterizan por su reducida temperatura efectiva y por la presencia de bandas de metano, usando espectroscopía infrarroja. A 400 parsec de distancia, son extremadamente débiles. Todo un desafío incluso para esta impresionante máquina.

Con todo, lo mejor fue el descenso a al residencia en Hale Pohaku. A 2700 metros de altura, con el Sol saliendo sobre el mar de nubes, y con unas cuantas horas de descanso por delante, las cosas se ven mucho mejor. Sobre todo con los datos en el ordenador, prometiendo interesantes resultados.

Enlaces a entradas escritas desde Mauna Kea en enero del 2008:

Esperas en aeropuertos, conexiones perdidas y proto-enanas marrones

El rayo verde desde Mauna Kea: fotos y video

Saturno y sus anillos: una visión en longitudes de onda submilimétricas



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