A Journey in the Dark

It turns out that Boyden Observatory is not a top tourist destination for the people of Ireland, so there are no direct flights. We will travel via Paris and Johannesburg to Bloemfontein, the closest city to Boyden. The longest leg of the journey is a 10.5 hour late-night flight from Paris to Johannesburg.

As with any good telescope servicing mission, it begins at 39A. Unfortunately for me, it’s the 39A bus to UCD, not launchpad 39A, oh well. At UCD, I pick up the flight-case containing our Andor camera and new filter-wheel and filters. It seems that at each airport, I will also pick up a new member of the servicing team.

At Dublin airport I meet Martin, a fellow member of the Watcher team. In Paris we meet Mates, an astrophysicist from the BOOTES team. And finally, in Johannesburg we meet Standa, an electrical engineer from the Czech Technical University in Prague. We have been brought together by the GLORIA project, which aims to give anyone with an interest in astronomy free access to research-grade telescopes. We hope that Watcher will soon join the list of available telescopes.

From Bloemfontein airport, we drop off our bags at our accommodation and then drive the short distance to Boyden. Our contact at Boyden, Pat, is waiting to show us around. My first time seeing Watcher in the flesh. It’s bigger than I expected. It’s now well over 24 hours since I left Dublin, so unfortunately observing will have to wait for another night.