Thursday, July 23, 2009

Report Form West Texas

Update for Out West.

Tina and went to the Alpine Visitors Center and Big Bend Museum at Sul Ross. Later that day we decided to drive out East to Marathon, Texas to see what was here…. Not much. Later in the day we drove started heading to the Marfa Lights Viewing area with the goal of setting up out 16” Dobsonian Telescope. But as we drove out there we could see that the storm cells north of Alpine were moving into the area. We snapped a few photos around the visitor center then our focus went Photographing the Lightning. It was clear that we weren’t going to be able to set up the telescope but we enjoyed capturing the storm with our camera. Later we moved our equipment to photograph the “Marfa Lights” I was able to take some long exposures about 10 minutes f/2.8 with a 200mm lens at ISO 12,800. I also took some 30 second exposures and later I will stack them in software to total a 30 minute exposure. More on the photographic findings later.

Today we got up and headed out to the McDonald Observatory and took the tour. It was really educational. I was allowed to control the 107 inch Harlan J. Smith Telescope. Others in our group moved the dome and opened the shutter. I was amazed at how hands on the tour was. We were able to get up close and personal with the telescope. After looking around the huge scope I noted that there was a telrad base mounted to one of the smaller scopes mounted on the side of the 107“. We then Moved to Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) a 403 inch segmented mirror telescope. This was really great to see. Last time I was at McDonald the HET was under construction. Today we were there while they were cleaning the Mirrors on the HET so we got to see them move the telescope. The design of the HET is really amazing, it moves on an air bladder and it is fixed at an angle of 50 degrees. We got to see the cleaning crew move the telescope around which is something our tour guide said he had only seen once before. While looking at the telescope I noticed a smaller Meade LX200 (12”-ish) mounted on the base of the HET… and guess what.. It had a tel-rad. I was really amazed that these huge massive scopes still find use for a tel-rad something that I use on my telescopes.
After to tour we went back to the visitors center and got the receptionist to call Frank Cianciolo, the director of the visitor’s center. I’ve been talking with him over the past week about setting up and observing. We talked with Frank about a hour about astronomy and he knew a lot of my old astronomy buddies from San Angelo, so we caught up on some old stories and old friend. Mr. Cianciolo showed us were we could set up our telescope for the Friday and Saturday Star Party (Today is just too cloudy and rainy). He gave us a personal tour of the visitor center’s telescopes and he showed Tina the telescope she’d most likely be running. If the weather is nice Tina will run the observatory 1 telescope a 16” Meade LX200. She will have to work out the dome control but it should be good. I’ll have our 16” Telescope set up outside. We are all set up and we are hopeful the weather will be good.

Also today we noticed many private observatories between Ft. Davis and McDonald. We even saw the roll off roof observatory that houses Jimi Lowery's 48 inch reflector the largest Privately owned Telescope. I've been in e-mail contact with Mr. Lowery and we might be able to visit with him also on this trip.


Ricky Peterson said...

Thanks for sharing this post. I don't believe that marfa lights can be seen but in my next vacation surely visit this place. Texas is a good place. Don't miss the sun-soaked sands of the Bombay beach. for more details refer Marfa Lights In Texas