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May 22, 2020 - A Winter Routine

It has been dark for a while now. With the Aurora Australis and the Milky Way in full bloom, going outside on a clear day is always invigorating. Surprisingly I haven't really missed the sun very much at all...

As I continue to fix little issues with the new telescope, my days are starting to fall into more of a routine. Every two days, the helium sorption fridges that keep our focal planes really cold (0.3K!) run out of liquid helium and the gas must be recondensed. During this period, the telescope can not make observations, so I climb around and do my routine inspections. Inside the lab, I make sure the helium compressor pressures are all nominal, which keeps the pulse tubes running, and I climb up inside the telescope to make sure various systems are working normally. Then I head outside and inspect the receiver windows and forebaffles for snow and ice. I also spend between 15 minutes to an hour and a half sweeping snow out of the ground shield. The telescope sits inside a giant relfective bowl that blocks unwanted signals on the horizon from entering the telescope. Unfortunately it is also a giant snow collector. Ice crystals blown in by the wind drop into the ground shield and accumulate in drifts. When it is very windy, two days of accumulation can take a long time to clear out! After all my inspections are finished I queue up the next observation schedule and call it a night.