For my final night in Hilo, I had a fun evening of curry and beers with my German friend. The next day I packed everything up and left the house that had been my temporary home for 5 weeks. It was a nice treat to get a taxi to the IfA rather than walking up that hill in the heat! Leaving IfA, I had to fuel up the car before a cloudy drive up to Hale Pohaku.

It was a little surreal being back up Mauna Kea after my Maui trip. I feel most at home when I’m up Mauna Kea out of all the places I’ve stayed on Big Island. But it felt funny being back up the mountain and doing another observing run when I was very much ready to come home.

Since it was cloudy and I was feeling sleepy, I decided to skip dinner and get an early night to try and ease my body into GMT in an attempt to avoid jet lag once I’m back in the UK! I woke up to beautiful clear skies and tried to crack on with some code but it was very tedious without my own laptop. I went on a classic sunrise hike up my favourite sunrise mountain 🙂

My favourite place to catch the sunrise 🙂

After breakfast I struggled on with the code. I was trying to make a program which changes my data from raw to useable! The program, once it’s working, will do things like get rid of random pixels introduced by the telescope and instrument. It will also remove the Earth’s atmospheric emission lines (sky lines), leaving only the Jupiter H3+ emission line. As well as this, I need to correct the emission lines for a distortion introduced by the instrument. It’s something to do with the optics that I still don’t fully understand yet (that I will learn before my viva!), which causes the emission lines to be curved. Distorted emission lines is no use when you’re measuring Dopper shift, as we want to know the shifts due to H3+ ions moving and we don’t want to be confused by mystery velocities caused by a distorted line! By using the calibration arc lamp emission lines, I can work out the distortion and then subtract this from the H3+ data. Anyway, that’s the plan for the program. Putting the plan into action was slow going and I continued until lunch, after which I treated myself to another early night.

I anticipated no issues with this final observing run, but of course I should never have assumed this! The calibrations didn’t seem to be working, I couldn’t seem to measure any emission lines from the arc lamps. Communication suddenly got very confusing when myself, my colleague back in the UK and the telescope operators up on the summit got our wires crossed! There wasn’t any way to solve the problem from Hale Pohaku, so I drove up to the telescope. Once the observer was finished using the instrument, the TO’s could investigate under the telescope. It turned out that the calibration lamp had accidentally been unplugged! Oops! I was super relieved that our problem had easy fix and nothing complicated!

I carried out the observations of Jupiter which thankfully went as planned and the skies cooperated by providing beautiful, clear observing conditions. I finished my night with the calibrations, which were now possible as the lamp was plugged in again! The air mass of Jupiter was very high by the end of the night so I finished off by doing calibrations instead of continuing to observing Jupiter. The air mass represents the amount of atmosphere the light from Jupiter passes through before reaching the telescope. As Jupiter sets, and moves down towards the horizon, light travelling from Jupiter has to pass through more of the Earth’s atmosphere to reach the telescope. This is bad for observing as it makes Jupiter look all fuzzy! The increased air mass causes higher variability in the data which is harder to remove from the raw data in the program that I was attempting to create. So I didn’t mind doing the cals instead of observing Jupiter with a high air mass.

After observing and some breakfast, I had time to pack and squeeze in a nap before heading down the mountain. In all the time I’ve spent in national parks at Hawai’i, I’d not seen any Nene, a rare Hawaiian goose. There are signs everywhere telling you to drive slowly but the geese themselves appear to be very illusive! But I finally saw a small flock of them on my drive down Mauna Kea. There were about 6 of them chilling on the road, I’m glad for the slow speed limit so I didn’t run them over!

I dropped off the car at the IfA and a taxi picked me up and took me to the airport. After quite a long wait in Hilo and Honolulu airport I am definitely sick of tiki music, although to be fair to Honolulu airport, I did get to see one last whale from the runway, which is pretty cool.

The journey went as journeys do and I was so excited to get back to the UK! I literally ran through the airport to meet my BBF/PhD buddy who was picking me up and taking me home to Leicester. We had plenty to catch up on in the car and the jouney wizzed by! Eventually I was back at my house in Leicester and I could see my boyfriend again! 🙂

So this brings me to the end of my epic 5 week trip to Hawai’i. I’ve been back in the UK for about a month now and many people have obviously asked me how my trip was. This is actually quite a hard question to answer. I tell them it was hard, I was home sick but I did have fun and I’m so glad I took this opportunity. I’ve learnt so much, not only in terms of understanding the data I use in my PhD but also for my own confidence as a PI who really doesn’t feel like an adult 🙂