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 Observing From McDonald Observatory, TX 3/25/10
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 Thursday, March 25 2010 @ 08:15 am EDT (Read 2073 times)  
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Eek! Barbara and I are here on Spring Break, staying at the Astronomer's Lodge; located just below the dome of the 107" reflector at the McDonald Observatory. The first night here we did their Star Party thing - lots of scopes (& people). The wx was mostly cloudy and very windy - viewed M42 thru a 20" RC - view showed lots of nebulosity but view of theta orionus wasn't as clear as that of my 8". We took the guided tour the next day and saw the inner workings of the HET & 107" plus a great presentation at the Visitors Center on Solar activity including live shots from a 14" Meade on a Paramount ME (using H alpha).
I had set my 8" up in a small parking lot 50 yards from the lodge the first night but was not able to observe anything the first night due to cloud cover - but tonight was a different story. Wow, got some great looks of Orion, Mars, Moon before midnight - got a couple hours sleep and went out again. The moon was setting and the sky starting to darken; by 0530 is was completely dark and gin clear (but cold & windy). With Scorpio sitting higher than I've ever seen (we're at 30 degrees N. Lat. here versus 35 back home), all the favorite globulars, open clusters & nebula were fantastic. For a change of pace I slewed the scope to U.M. and M81, which showed a bright central core and feathered out to nothing but not a lot of structure there. I then slewed to its neighbor M82 (expecting even less visual detail) - and was amazingly surprised to see this linear object spread out to almost half my field of view (using a 2" Nagler @ 12mm) with lots of detail of M82's tumultuous structure! The sky is unbelievaly dark here (at 6.700 ft.), even under less than ideal condiitons and just these last few hours of viewing have made the trip more than worthwhile.
Will add to this post after I return and have some pics developed to a disk.

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 Friday, March 26 2010 @ 11:09 pm EDT  
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The Hobby-Eberly is the fourth largest telescope in the world, with an effective mirror diameter of 9.2 meters (360"). Specifically designed for spectroscopy it has unique design features that drastically reduce the overall mechanical structure for a scope this large and thus a reduction in cost to only about 20 % of traditional scope design. The mirror is composed of 91 hexagonal shaped mirror tiles with one meter sides. The overall shape is a pure spherical segment which means that the geometry of each mirror tile is the same. The scope can rotate in the horizontal direction only which means the primary mirror is always tilted at the same angle. Tracking and focusing is accomplished by the secondary system that moves to both track and keep the object selected in proper focus. The system can cover about 70 % of the available sky in this manner. There is a twin to this scope in South Africa. The attached photo show the dome housing HET.

A long distance shot of the domes housing the 107 " Harlan J. Smith (L) and 82" Otto Struve (R) Telescopes with the Astronomy Lodge directly below the Smith dome:

This photo shows my visual set-up with an 8" Celestron with the 107" HJS directly behind - 8" vs. 107":

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Chuck Larson
 Friday, April 02 2010 @ 12:27 am EDT  
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Registered: 06/23/03
Posts: 50

Love your photos of the observing site your at. Wish we had some skies as dark as you have there.
I was not aware that you were taking spring break there until I happened to get on line at the AOAS website.
I have been out of town myself for the past couple of weeks and out of touch with reality. Just got back into
town and looking at all my backed up emails (mostly junk mail). Hope to see your next pics when you get
them loaded here on the website.
Best wishes for the Easter weekend.
Chuck L.

Chuck Larson
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