Taking astronomical images can be a very rewarding process—in part because of the gorgeous images you take, but also in part because of all the obstacles that can prevent you from observing the skies. We can protect our telescopes in buildings during the day to keep them clean and dry, but when night comes and we open the domes, the weather becomes our worst enemy. My most recent observing run was plagued by all of these problems, and it was a constant battle to try to collect data.
The most common obstacle is clouds. Optical telescopes, just like the human eye, cannot see through a cloud. It doesn’t matter how big the telescope is, all you see is gray static in your image. Sometimes you are lucky enough to observe at a telescope situated on top of a mountain that is above any clouds. However, the telescope most IU astronomers use–the WIYN telescope in Arizona–is not quite this high. So instead, while you wait for the clouds to clear, you can busy yourself with other work—for example, I recorded a video for a summer class I am teaching.