This coming Friday is the deadline for asking time at the Shane 3m-telescope for the period 2009B (Aug 2009-Jan 2010). Since UC-observatory is still using the old snail-mail system, I need to have the proposals printed and mailed before Thursday, so I spent my day writing a few of them. The Shane telescope is located on the top on Mount Hamilton and it is part of the Lick Observatory, so less than 2h from my house. I am very lucky to have the possibility to observe over there since it is located nearby and it is the only large (>2m) telescope that I can access without having to take a plane and thus deal with airport.
Additionally, the Shane telescope is definitely a first-class telescope. It is equipped with a various instruments such as an Adaptive Optics system with a Laser Guide Star, a Prime-Focus camera, and also a Echelle Spectrograph. Various exo-planets were discovered using this telescope. I did use this telescope in the past to study binary asteroids and determine the composition of their surface for instance.
I am attaching a bunch of pictures that I took while observing with the Laser Guide Star on September 1 2007 (my colleague H. Bouy was in the control room of the 3m-telescope). They were my first astronomical pictures ever taken with my CANON EOS camera during the Aurigid meteor shower. I even captured a few of them and my colleague P. Jennisken used them for his work
So for what kind of projects will I ask for telescope time with the Shane-3m telescope in 2009B? In fact I decided to focus on two proposals only. I am going to ask for a few hours at the end of the 3 nights in January 2010 to observe the exosphere of Mercury using the Echelle Spectrograph. An exosphere is the uppermost part of an atmosphere which is directly in contact with the solar wind. The exosphere of Mercury is not stable and varies in composition, density and shape so we propose to observe it between the flyby of the NASA mission Messenger (Sept 2009) and its capture in orbit schedule in March 2011. This is a completely new kind of observations that I will be doing with my colleague A. Doressoundiram from the Observatoire de Paris. The second proposal is more technical and it is a preliminary study for a new type of instrument that we would like to build in 2010 called a Fibered Imager. We request 3 nights in September or October 2009 to characterize the properties of the atmospheric turbulence to better assess the design of this future instrument. This is a very challenging new field of research involving astronomers from Hawaii, Japan, France and California based in diverse institutions.
I will get the response in a few months so in the mean time, please wish me luck!