Tombstone Sky Observatory
The observatory is an dark-site, owner-built, semi-private facility, and it's the only one of its kind within the 'old' town limits (near the Historical District). Although it's open-air, the light shielding provides dark skies, allowing naked-eye viewing of stars dimmer than Magnitude 5, and the Milky Way extends to both horizons. You would have to go miles into the Sonoran desert to find anyplace darker. It is, in fact, so dark that I had to install safety lights for visitors, or for when I went onto the deck without my eyes being properly dark-adapted.
This is a picture of the observatory deck. It's elevated (second floor) with the raised walls. It's pretty much the highest thing around for 270°. To eliminate light pollution, the deck walls have been raised on three sides, with the roof providing the shield on the fourth. I left a view-port for looking out on the mountains and valley. Since it gets pretty windy in Tombstone at times, gaps were left in the raised wall to reduce wind-pressure. These are plugged by 'light shields', which are nothing more than valances, weighted to keep them from blowing around. These are on rods, so that the light shields can be taken down when not in use.
The result of all this trouble and expense is that most light pollution is blocked from reaching the telescope, or the people using it. The only two remaining offenders are one street light, and a Circle-K light, which they refuse to lower back to where it was before I started this project.
River is a 12" Meade LX90GPS. This telescope can be manually controlled, or through the "Go-To" Autostar handbox, or from the computer in the house room through Starry Night Pro software. Using the computer, I can watch the sky map, and if there's something I want to look at, I have the computer position the telescope, and the image is in the eyepiece by the time I get out to the deck. I preserve my night vision by using red indoor and deck lights while the telescope is active, and with special red-lens glasses. This makes watching TV a little bizarre, but what's in the telescope is much more entertaining anyway.
The scope and tripod are mounted on a ScopeBuggy tricycle dolly. Getting a scope this size on and off the tripod is an impossibility for a guy with two back surgeries, so the scope's current mount is 'permanent', in that it'll stay there until either the telescope dies, or I do.
When not in use, the telescope is housed in this Suncast 8000 shed. This is excellent weather protection (it doesn't leak a drop), and also keeps the scope pretty much at ambient air temperature. This is necessary to get the best images the scope can provide. Accessories are also stored in the shed, except for serious weather. There are heating lamps in the shed which protect the scope from dew and frost.
NOTE: Since I am now in an end-of-life situation, River and all its assets have been shipped to Oberlin College in Ohio. So River has gone to college, where, hopefully, she'll provide much enjoyment to college students and to others when Oberlin's observatory has star parties. River served me well, and it sure was a pleasure to have this quality of a private observatory. It was only for a while, but when you think about it, a while is all of us ever get.
These photos are from the Oberlin College Observatory. The outdoor shots are for River set up for their twice-a-month open house for students and Oberlin residents. They typically average 80-90 visitors per session, which means River is getting a good workout.
Great Courses" DVD Lecture Sets
Other DVD Sets
Possibly because of the fellowship - or maybe because he's
just a good guy -
Prof Filippenko has made these additions to my
library, and he has my sincere thanks for these additions.