Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 24

GARY PUNAWAI / KECK OBSERVATORY

Behind the Scenes

BIG SCOPES Joel Aycock stands with Keck I. The primary mirror is behind him and the attached 1.8 meter f/15 secondary is to
his left and reflected in the primary.

ESO / M. MARCHESI

ESO / MAX ALEXANDER

"We sometimes work with a few astronomers who
are high strung and occasionally need some calming
to make the night go more smoothly and productively,"
says Joel Aycock, a veteran TO at the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea. Then there are graduate students
working feverishly on their dissertations, who have "an
awful lot" riding on the few hours of large telescope time
available to them. "You could consider me a therapist in
helping them through these crises."
With their academic backgrounds, many TOs could
pursue graduate studies in astronomy en route to working as a professional astronomer. However, TOs often

find that working with astronomers to make new discoveries satisfies their scientific curiosity.
"The competitive publish-or-perish attitude in academia really dissuaded me," says Ball, who finished his
bachelor's degree in physics. "But I really love to learn
about the physical processes in our universe, and I'm very
hands-on at the telescope."
After completing his undergraduate degree, Ball
accepted a job running a college observatory, which
entailed managing public outreach, running lab courses,
and overseeing student projects. His experience with the
college observatory prepared him for TO work first in
Albuquerque, New Mexico, and then in Hawai'i, where he
has been for the last 8 years.
Aycock echoes Ball's sentiment of being passionate
about astronomy and yet not wanting to be a professional
astronomer. "I love discovering how things work, solving
problems, and helping the real experts develop new techniques and equipment to do the job," Aycock says.
Becoming a TO wasn't Aycock's original plan; he had
a computer job lined up in New Zealand after he finished his bachelor's degree in physics at Reed College in
Portland, Oregon. "I arrived in Honolulu in the summer
of 1974 with a visa and job offer in Christchurch, $1,300
in the bank, two pairs of jeans and three shirts," Aycock
explains. He had planned to lay over in Hawai'i for a while
to enjoy the sun, but he ran through his savings in just
weeks. Since he was stuck in Honolulu, Aycock enrolled in
graduate astronomy courses at the University of Hawai'i,
Manoa, and discovered the telescopes on Mauna Kea.

ROLLING OUT THE ANTENNAS Left: When astronomers want to change the configuration of the 66 antennas that make up the
Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), they don't do it by hitting a button: transporter operators move the antennas
for them. Here, Patricio Saavedra drives the 28-wheel transporter "Otto" across the ALMA site - while wearing an oxygen tube to
keep his mind sharp at an elevation of 5,000 meters. Right: Here, Otto carries the array's final 12-meter antenna, delivered to ALMA in
2013. The driver's cab is the box in front. The antenna weighs about 100 tons.

24

March 2016 sky & telescope



Sky and Telescope - March 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky and Telescope - March 2016

Contents
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - Cover1
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - Cover2
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 1
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - Contents
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 3
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - A
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - B
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 4
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 5
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 6
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 7
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 8
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 9
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 10
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 11
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Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 24
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Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - Cover3
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - Cover4
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