Saturday, March 29, 2008

Observing Astronomers Observing

"I want you to get more enthusiastic about Astronomy" said Professor Malcolm Coe, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southampton "so what about accompanying the Physics, Astronomy and Engineering undergraduate students on their field trip to Tenerife?"

- Oh it'ś a hard job being the Śchools' Liaison Officer and Light Express Coordinator for the School of Physics and Astronomy. Obviously I agreed to go on the trip! Yesterday I met with 22 students, 1 Professor, a couple of Post Doctorate Astronomy Researchers and a PhD Astrophysics student at Tenerife Airport. We then traveled by minibus from the south of the island up north, using walkie-talkies to help our convoy navigate the poorly-signed roads.

I took lots of attractive photos; pictures of the spectacular volcanic landscape (which looked as though someone had chucked large sticks of dynamite at the mountains); photos of the enormous wind-turbines turning in the coastal winds - behind them a backdrop of the turquoise ocean. I took photos of the colourful houses in the valleys as we wound our way up the mountains, their gardens decorated with beautiful flowers and spectacular cacti. They were fantastic images, I was so very pleased with myself until I erased them all by mistake while trying to use LINUX for the first time - the Scientist's alternative to Microsoft Windows.

At the beginning of day one at the University of Tenerife in La Laguna I imagined an easy 10 days ahead of light work, followed by afternoons/evenings spent on the beach - a bit of a holiday -for me and the students- surely?

"We're going to do ten year's worth of work in a week" said Professor Ismael Perez-Fournon course leader in Tenerife and member of staff at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. The students eagerly got to down to work and I realised - somewhat in shock - that I have a week to get to grips with the basics of Gamma-ray Astronomy.


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