April 03, 2013 #137 - McDonald Observatory, Ft. Davis, TX

For this post I'm including a few pictures from a tour of the facilities at McDonald Observatory. The view on the mountains is very impressive and well worth the time, about three hours. The tour starts out at the main visitors center. They present a history, an overview of the current research, a tutorial of spectroscopy, and real time observation of the sun with over all and close ups of current visible features.

Following this you are taken by van to the summit of Mt. Locke to examine the 107 inch telescope. You are able to closely examine the instrument where all phase of the observatory operation are explained and the scope and dome are operated to give you a first hand experience of instrument and dome procedures during a nights observation. I thought it interesting that the 30" core bored from the center of the mirror was retained to construct other telescopes. The foot and a half thick slab of glass was sliced into two pieces half as thick and optically worked to finished mirrors. One of these is on Mt. Locke and the other is at Kitt Peak Observatory.

The van then transports you to the 9.2 meter  H.E.T. scope on Mt Fowlkes to the north west. This scope is the fifth largest multi-segmented mirror in the world and the largest in the northern hemisphere. Each segment is monitored for proper orientation and computer aligned on a continuous basis. The entire scope is moved floating on a multiple cushions of air. The light is gathered and a corrector lens, again computer controlled on a track, insures precise focus to where the light is piped through optical cables to a spectrograph. This data is digitally transmitted to the researcher without that researcher having to be on the mountain. The scope is controlled and data collected by operating staff.

At the visitors center they also conduct Star Parties, weather permitting, on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturdays. Visitors can observe objects of opportunity through telescopes provided by the staff at a site near the visitors Center. The McDonald Observatory claims the darkest sky in the lower 48 states and plentiful nights of clear skies.

Mt. Locke

Mt. Fowlkes
View East from summit of Mt Locke
Close up of the 107" telescope dome
107" Rear View
Side view and Spectrograph
Movable Platform for 107" access
Dome just below 107" housing 30" built from center bore of mirror
Peak to peak view of H.E.T. Scope
Close up of H.E.T. Dome (B&W for better contrast view)
Edge of H.E.T. mirror showing sub-structure
Close up of individual mirror segment and support/control structure
Two floating air pads for rotation of telescope structure

 Clear Sky - Rich

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