Sunday, January 31, 2010

VAPoR field testing - Day 3

Day 3 started nicely with a pretty moon and a the regular hike up to the test site.

We're staying in the Hale Pohaku observatory lodges. Rooms are nice, food less... Shouldn't complain, but will: why can our field chef haul fresh everything to a dusty site and tastes/looks the canteen food here likes it's grown in the can it came from.. Well, shouldn't be too picky I guess.

Hale Pohaku Lodge, 7:10 AM

After an apparently coldish night we found a nice frost layer on the ground.

But also our setup at -5 °C. VAPoR is living a tent for the time being and had to shut down overnight, due to lack of generator power. Quickly started warming up and pumping to get the water out and the system back up. After about an hour everything looked fine again, time to run a background scan.

The science tents

While I was running the test Danny went out with the rest of the science teams and Kris-the-driller to get more samples from a different site than yesterday. We're sampling from different depths to measure if there are any differences in volatile content. One clearly visible difference is that the samples from 1 meter and below are much wetter than the top soil. Unfortunately, we need to get rid of this water first to be able to start measuring without saturating the mass spectrometer (residual gas analyzer, RGA), so we will not be able to show this difference in our data.

After exchanging the blank for a real (1-meter deep wet) sample and leaving that at 50 °C for a while to get rid of the water, it was time to start measuring our second real sample!

Sample preparation table

And then the RGA gave up..... A lot of trouble shooting later, it seemed that there's something wrong with the voltage going to quadrupole rods of the RGA, so we decided to leave it baking at 200 °C for a few hours to get rid of potential contamination and call the company tomorrow.

Lesson 1 - errors that NEVER happen in the lab WILL happen to you in the field.

Lesson 2 - do NOT be stupid and go back to the field site around 23.00 to fill up the generator to keep everything warm.

Around 15.30 we left the system up and running and hiked back to HP-lodge, where just after taking a shower I got a phone call that the generator had died (not out of gas, just dead). Sigh.. But, generator was replaced and by guiding the guy who replaced it, through the different panels on the front, everything seemed to be fine (apart from the bake out temperature that had dropped ~100 °C), so back up and running.

HP-lodge 15:30 (3:30 PM)

Time for a quick nap and dinner, and we took off for a speedy-gonzales trip up to the summit to watch the sunset. On the way to the car I managed to trip over nothing (is the altitude getting me after all?) and land on both knees, hiking tomorrow will be interesting with two bubbles, one on each knee. Pretty pretty pretty, especially with those telescopes in the foreground.

The test site from halfway to the Mauna Kea top.

Subaru, Keck 1, Keck 2.

View towards Kona.

Luckily, we learned lesson 2 quickly enough to implement it right away.

23:45 - generator refilled (thanks to Kris for driving me there), time to go to bed. 5:45 alarm goes off....

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