In April, the McDonald Observatory in West Texas began using the re-engineered Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) to look for dark energy in far away galaxies.
The telescope employs a massive deck of glass comprising 91 glass hexagons. Spectrometers record the light profile of photos that strike the glass. Astronomers then interpret those findings.
The Observatory keeps the public updated with with an active twitter account.
The Austin American-Statesman spoke with Herman Kriel, the telescope's project manager, about the fragility of HET's optics package.
Transporting HET's upgraded glass required driving it from Tuscan to West Texas, a 500 mile journey. Potholes are ubiquitous in that part of the country. To avoid damaging the equipment, Kriel and the Observatory arranged for a dry run. They recorded the location of all the potholes on the route then executed the actual drive without issue. Hitting a single pothole "could set us back months," said Kriel.
The McDonald Observatory is primarily backed by universities, small grants and individuals. The identify themselves as a 'shoe string operation' compared to larger state-run telescopes around the world.
This graph represents the light spectrum of a supernova.