Archives January 2023

Doubling Down

We lost power at RFO from about 8am to 5pm today. Everything came back online as expected, however, and we’re observing now.

Not a packet yet from IfA. They found the problem, though: the network was damaged in our building. Physical repair completed, and (eagerly) awaiting reconfiguration to bring us back online.

In Other News…

There’s always a lot going on with LaserSETI. It’s easy to be super focused on the operations and observational data but, just like overall SETI 9-dimensional haystack, the LaserSETI project is similarly multifaceted, and we’re always trying to make progress on all its different dimensions.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case, closer to a thousand hours… of 3D printing time. Here’s the receiving bucket containing the parts for the new instruments, waiting to be cleaned and put to use:

Large bucket of LaserSETI parts, waiting to be cleaned and used

We’ve done so much printing, in fact, that it’s time to swap out the printing surface for a new one. It’s not hard to spot the difference, is it? And, with a shiny new surface, it’s a good time to print the parts that are a little more delicate in the first layers, like the sunshade that protects the cameras’ shutters from the beating sun.

3D printer build surface: used vs. new

On some of those other dimensions, here’s a few things happening right now:

  • Replacement of a misbehaving hard disk in our long-term storage array, and rebuilding the double redundancy of the 100TB volume
  • Copying a subset of the data to ship off to a budding student partnership to study the data
  • Estimates for LaserSETI’s usefulness at capturing Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays
    • Spoiler alert: not as good as we’d hoped, because the chances of seeing an event are proportional to how spread out your sensors are on the ground
  • Working with a mechanical engineer to iron out the kinks caused by heat transfer in the cutting process when fabricating our stainless steel enclosures

Almost there?

It’s the best night we’ve had at RFO in at least a month. Lots of stars, clear, not too much moisture, few to no clouds. 🔭 Hooray!

At IfA, however, the saga continues. Power had been “restored” via generator, then the main network cable was fixed… and re-fixed. Then we lost power from the generator, had to replace a major breaker after ordering a replacement from off the island, and now mains power and generator are both up.

200A Circuit breaker which needed replacing

As you might have concluded by now, there was a lot of damage to the equipment on the mountain from the storm in December. It’s not clear what was from direct storm damage, power fluctuations, or other secondary causes, but clearly there’s still more to repair because… we still haven’t been able to reach the instruments, despite general connectivity being restored for a third time this month.

My hope is and endeavor will be that this is the last post about what’s not working, and the next one has only good news. Next week? Fingers crossed. Stay tuned and thanks for thinking good thoughts for us!

I’m Seeing Stars!

And not the cartoon kind! 🐦💫 The Bay Area isn’t done with rain storms, and this definitely isn’t a great observing night by any standard, but it’s so nice to see stars again. It’s been weeks!

RFO1 Console screenshot showing stars and clouds

The news isn’t quite as good from Haleakala, unfortunately. Hawaiin Telecomm repaired the fiber, decided they needed to redo it, redid it, and yet we still haven’t made Contact with the instruments. Checking multiple times per day hasn’t seemed to help. Something about a “watched kettle never boils” I think?

Weather Nemesis

In the years that LaserSETI’s been operational across two sites, this is certainly the longest weather delay we’ve ever had simultaneously affecting both sites.

The good news is that Hawaiian Telecom made good progress repairing the fiber on the slopes of Haleakala today, and should get us back online by Friday at the latest–assuming they can secure a helicopter to assist. Apparently, helicopters don’t grow on trees, even in Hawaii.

The probably-not-good news is that, here in CA, the weather is still bad and who knows when it will clear up. Forecast says rain for another week, but maybe some of that could be during the day and the clouds could push out at night? 🙂

Current weather radar for Ferguson Observatory
(located within Sugarloaf Ridge State Park)