Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Well, it's in the public domain now - UKIRT's future


Latest news can be seen here -SFGate news about UKIRT. I'm sure other media sources will pick things up over the next day or so. Local rags picked it up quickly but aren't the places I want to direct people to. Don't know anything about SFGate, but haven't hit a paywall there yet.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Long Goodbye



Eddie, the cat on the right, has been with me almost since the day I arrived in Hawaii. She's approaching 18 years old now and as a kitten wasn't expected to survive her first year. She was 10-weeks old and just skin and bones and clearly the runt of the litter when I adopted her. The person at the Humane Society told me she needed a lot of love and care to survive, and when her adopted sister, Patsy, died just a few weeks later from FIP, the vet said it was likely she had contracted the disease as well and would die young.

Well, over 17 years later she is still with me, nearly as energetic as she ever was, but the big C has been diagnosed and she has little time left. Because of her age there are no realistic treatment options other than to make sure what little time she has left is as comfortable as possible, and, of course, to feel loved.

It's amazing what an animal can do to you. Before I adopted Eddie I did not particularly like cats, I was always a dog lover, but she has been special. Right now, even though she isn't at her best, she's sitting by my feet watching me type these words although she's probably just watching to see if I have more food for her! There's almost been a human-dog-like companionship between us; she waits for me each evening at the front porch to come home from work and follows wherever I go. She'll even sit on command (sometimes). When she knows it's the right time, she comes to me for petting and a little affection, but also knows when I need time alone. But she's always there when that time ends, often with a little kiss on my nose.

In a couple of months this will come to an end. It will be hard but I know I've given her the best life possible and a much longer one than she would have had if we hadn't met.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A room with a view

Well, Pam opened her Christmas present early, so I can post it here now as well! This was the view from our hotel room in Astoria, Oregon, of the Columbia River and the Astoria-Megler Bridge (you can click on the picture for a much larger version). I can't say enough good things about the Cannery Pier Hotel, it's one of the best places we have ever stayed at, I highly recommend a visit if you ever get the chance.

I now have only a short trip in the future to achieve and complete a small ambition of mine, which is to have driven the entire coast of California and Oregon: Los Angeles to San Diego.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

California sunset

 

It's been almost a year since I last posted anything here. Sorry about that. The reasons are both personal and professional and I'm not up to updating anyone on either of those right now. But I did want to share an amazing sunset both Pam and I saw a week or so before Thanksgiving.


This was a sunset seen from Carpinteria Beach. Apparently it's the safest beach in America, or something like along those lines.


I felt very safe, especially as I wasn't in the water and I didn't see any muggers or assassins near me. Lots of people were there that evening because the sunset the previous evening was even more spectacular and everyone was on the beach wanting to see the same thing again. The sunset wasn't quite as good but it was still wonderful to watch. Unfortunately Pam and I were on the road the evening before, so didn't have the chance to capture what was a stunning sight (we saw the sunset from Hwy 101), but this wasn't too bad either.

I have a great picture from further up north I want to share, but won't for now. Pam gets it as her Christmas present which I hope will remind her of the wonderful places we visited on our recent 3000-mile road trip.

And, for those interested, once I can post something about UKIRT's future (and mine), I will!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

So what?


We don't care about publication rates. We want our dinner. Now. Otherwise your phone book isn't going anywhere.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

UKIRT sets yet another publication record

From "JCMT and UKIRT Break Publication Records Again in 2012". And the UK STFC still plan to withdraw funding later this year. No wonder so many other groups are interested in ownership of UKIRT.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Lowering the flag for the last time

Well, today is an end of an era. The decision was made some time ago, but the UK STFC have ended their participation in the Gemini Observatory today. Not only does this make the UK look bad - who wants to work with a country that's pulling out of so many science projects they've invested in for so many years? - it's created a big problem for Gemini as the UK's financial contribution was a significant part of Gemini's income and operating costs. As you know, the UK will also withdraw support and funding for UKIRT (Gemini's next door neighbour and where I work) at the end of September 2013 and then the JCMT in late 2014. 

Anyway, I was kindly invited to attend the Union Jack flag lowering ceremony this afternoon at Gemini's Hilo-based headquarters as the JAC's representative. Some of the snapshots I took are below.

All seven flags of the Gemini partner countries fly proudly outside the Gemini Hilo Headquarters at 3pm today.
Gemini North Headquarters.
The Union Jack starts to be lowered by Gemini staff members Gabriela and Claire.
Folding the flag - it will be sent back to the STFC in the UK.
Careful! Don't let the flag touch the ground!
The flag is handed to Markus Kissler-Patig, Gemini Director.
I hope the UK government and STFC are proud of this picture.

I was also handed a second Union Jack to give to my own boss when he returns from a trip. No photos of that I'm afraid, but although it was quite a sad occasion people were smiling (perhaps because they now have cut off all ties with the UK STFC?) and it was nice to catch up with many old friends, several of whom worked for UKIRT in the past!

Happy New Year, everyone!


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Merry Christmas

2012 has not been my favourite year, the last few weeks up until October were up there with the worst of my life. But then Pam and I visited the UK and my spirits were lifted again. She had only spent a couple of days there 30 years ago and so I took her on a tour of all the places in the UK that meant something to me. Where I grew up, where my family vacationed when I was a kid, where I went to college and where I spent the last couple of years before moving to Hawaii.

It was the best trip of my life. I think Pam enjoyed it as well.

Then it was back to work and dealing with the possible closure of UKIRT, running operations, etc. And then the utterly horrible, stomach-churning, distressing news from Newtown Connecticut. Twenty small kids shot dead along with the teachers that tried to protect them.

I have never felt so upset and I have yet to find a way to deal with the feelings I have. I love America, but how could this happen here? Not your normal shooting spree, that's terrible enough, but to shoot so many young children and their teachers?

Why? The country I moved to, one I love, with so many wonderful people, has people that can do this? Every day I meet people who want to help, have a chat in the store, joke about the weather, criticize my choice of beer or accent while giving me a high five on the way out. Wonderful people who want to stay in touch when I meet them in a distant hotel bar, offers of Thanksgiving dinners with people I've never met, people who go out of their way to help a stranded motorist at the side of the highway.

And then Newtown. 

Why?

I'm sorry I haven't been posting here much, but perhaps you might like to watch a video which I always find helpful when I feel low. I know Pam will like it, several shots of the UK countryside! The music, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings is my favourite piece of music and the poem is wonderful and moving.


Merry Christmas everyone,

Tom

Thursday, 5 July 2012

UKIRT discovers "impossible" binary stars

Artist's impression of the two red dwarfs orbiting each other (credit: J. Pinfield, for the RoPACS network).

Despite facing closure UKIRT continues to produce superb scientific discoveries. In this case a pair of red dwarfs with impossibly tight orbits.

`"To our complete surprise, we found several red dwarf binaries with orbital periods significantly shorter than the 5 hour cut-off found for Sun-like stars, something previously thought to be impossible", said Bas Nefs from Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, lead author of the paper. "It means that we have to rethink how these close-in binaries form and evolve."

Since stars shrink in size early in their lifetime, the fact that these very tight binaries exist means that their orbits must also have shrunk as well since their birth, otherwise the stars would have been in contact early on and have merged. However, it is not at all clear how these orbits could have shrunk by so much.'

For more, see the full RAS press release.