Thursday, October 19, 2006

Telescopes after an Earthquake

It seems that while the telescopes on Mauna Kea were certainly affected by Sunday's 6.5 magnitude earthquake, nothing Really Bad happened, where by Really Bad, I think I mean, mirrors cracking and the like. My spy network at Caltech informs me that Keck headquarters had "moderate" damage (like things normally found on the ceiling being found on the floor), but all of the computers and such made it through fine. As for the telescopes themselves, it seems that the physical parts of the telescope in charge of making the telescope move in a smooth and predictable manner are somewhat damaged, especially on Keck II.

And as for the other telescopes on the mountain? Apparently, the world's largest telescope for observing at submillimeter wavelengths, the 15 meter James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), was doing a routine inclinometry check. This is another way of saying they were carefully measuring how much the telescope was tilted when the earth began to do the hokey pokey, as is clearly shown on the plot to the right. The vertical spread here is about 0.05 degrees. Clearly visible is the main quake, followed by a 5.8 magnitude aftershock and then power loss.

3 comments:

Fredrick said...

It's not real until it's plotted!

Stephen said...

Is the stuff before the quake some pre-quake thing? Or is the stuff after the quake the quiet of zero power?

mollishka said...

The stuff before the earthquake is "normal," from what I understand. The relative flatness on the right is due to a loss of power.