How does one spend Valentine’s Day when married to an astronomer?

Volunteering is Reward Enough!

Volunteer

Well, Andy and I volunteered at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station (VIS) on Mauna Kea where we cleaned and repaired the station’s telescope eyepieces!
Before we set to work on the large task ahead that filled the rest of our day, Andy ‘got’ us lunch at Hale Pohaku 😉 Well, actually lunch was provided by the VIS for our volunteer time; but we were spending the time together on Valentine’s Day!

Andy and I methodically cleaning all of the eyepieces for the VIS .

Andy and I methodically cleaning all of the eyepieces for the VIS .

After lunch, we made our way back down to the VIS and gathered up all of the eyepieces. At the classroom/warehouse, we collected our tools and cleaning supplies and set up for the several-hour task ahead.

The tunes were the first order of business that we set up to keep us company. Then we organized the table with cleaning supplies, tools and eyepieces – MANY eyepieces.

My first Tele Vue 16mm Naglar eyepiece of many parts that I had the pleasure of cleaning.

My first Tele Vue 16mm Naglar eyepiece of many parts that I had the pleasure of cleaning.

We kept notes for each make of eyepiece as we took it apart and sketched the order and direction of each lens and spacer so we were sure to put them back together in the right order and orientation.

It felt odd at first to take apart such nice elements of manufacturing; but I soon found that keeping the notes and carefully documenting each new configuration, the task was quite enjoyable. In fact, I enjoyed the challenge a great deal.

In pieces to better clean it throughout.  No need to mark the field lens on this one, it had a Fractured chip to mark it.

In pieces to better clean it throughout. No need to mark the field lens on this one, it had a Fractured chip to mark it.

It was also fun to get the lenses clean and fiber free then to succeed at getting all the pieces back together again, in the correct order; and still have it remain fiber free between the lenses 😀

They are like a cross between a jigsaw puzzle and a wood puzzle box; or in this case, a metal puzzle box.

"All the Kings Horses & All the Kings Men...":  Andy holding a badly damaged eyepiece lens.

“All the Kings Horses & All the Kings Men…”: Andy holding a badly damaged eyepiece lens.

However, sometimes it is depressing when the lenses are removed from the casing; and bits & pieces of the edge of one or more of the lenses fall out around them.

Although not always the case, the fractured pieces usually occur when the eyepiece sustains a significant impact such as dropping from a cold, mittened hand despite great care taken when changing out the eyepiece to provide a different perspective on the object being observed by the visiting public.

Close-up of badly damaged eyepiece lens & pieces. We did our best and made it serviceable.

Close-up of badly damaged eyepiece lens & pieces. We did our best and made it serviceable.

The process proceeds methodically through the eyepieces one after another until we reach the eyepiece that must be THE most popular one of the collection and has apparently been through the highest number of very cold and likely wind-chilled days or nights! A 2-inch Tele Vue 55mm Plössl.

Eeeeeew...that's a lens? One of the dirtiest lenses that I cleaned, removing grit & cinder. Photo by Andrew Cooper

Eeeeeew…that’s a lens? One of the dirtiest lenses that I cleaned, removing grit & cinder. Photo by Andrew Cooper

The case of the eyepiece that the lens in the photo came from, opened easily enough and all of the lenses were in very good condition, except for the one … well, you can see it in the photo!

This particular eyepiece not only saw many nights at the VIS; but it also saw many DAYS in use at the VIS on the solar telescope!

A Tele Vue 55mm Plössl in a 2-inch case, and the brush that helped remove the last of the fibers.

A Tele Vue 55mm Plössl in a 2-inch case, and the brush that helped remove the last of the fibers.

I separated all of its parts and set about the cleaning process; and well, I should have left the eye lens until last because the first wipe with the moistened lens tissue felt like coarse or rough grade sandpaper due to the sand, cinder dust, and grit 🙁

That tissue will get its final use on the barrel of the case where the surface is not as delicate. We made use of several alcohol pads and many optical cleaning tissues in addition to a lens pen that helped remove the final fibers!

Wow! Is that the same lens? You mean those weren’t sunspots? Photo by Andrew Cooper

Wow! Is that the same lens? You mean those weren’t sunspots? Photo by Andrew Cooper

It was quite satisfying when disassembling the same lens again was not necessary!

I methodically cleaned each piece and after I cleaned the case, too, I placed each lens and spacer back in the case per the notes; and attempted to put the two barrel pieces back together. Now I find out that the barrel has sustained such a blow to the threads that it is just enough out-of-round to prevent reassembly!!!

Unfortunately, the case of the eyepiece had suffered more than the lenses & would not go back together! Photo by Andrew Cooper

Unfortunately, the case of the eyepiece had suffered more than the lenses & would not go back together! Photo by Andrew Cooper

Luckily, this type of eyepiece is favored among organizations and individuals providing public star gazing opportunities. The VIS had a suitable replacement on hand made from parts of an old one that the lenses were REALLY beyond use and it works!

Reassembly is finally complete and we are done with this much-needed task! At least, for now 😉

Oh, my! Look at the time. 5:20pm! Gather up the few items that are too tempting. Drop off the last two eyepieces and the keys to the VIS. Now, get to HP before 5:45pm to get dinner!

Whew! We made it 🙂 Andy likes to say that he ‘provided’ us with dinner, too; but since it was also at Hale Pohaku, the VIS provided it as well for our volunteer time; but we were still spending the time together on Valentine’s Day!

All-in-all, it was a fine Valentine’s Day!

Beautiful End to a Beautiful Day! Treated to this view as we returned to the VIS to sign out and say good night!  Photo by Andrew Cooper.

Beautiful End to a Beautiful Day! Treated to this view as we returned to the VIS to sign out and say good night! Photo by Andrew Cooper.