Tombstone Sky
Dark-Site Observatory

Tombstone Observatory Astronomy About This Site

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My Story ...
... and a Fellowship

Tombstone Sky Observatory
Tombstone's Last Red-Light District

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.


Telescope Equipment

bulletMeade 12" LX90GPS f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain "River"
bulletMeade 497 Autostar I computerized/remote Go-To controller
bulletWilliam Optics 2" Dielectric Diagonal
bullet8x50, Telrad finders
bulletMeade 1403 OTA Balancing Kit
bulletTelegizmos Dew Shield

Eyepieces, Filters

bulletMeade 5000 Plössel, full set
bulletMeade 4000 40mm
bulletMeade 4000 2" 56mm (target finder)
bulletMeade 4000 2" QX WA 26mm
bulletBurgess TMB Planetary 8, 9mm eyepieces
bulletTelevue Nagler T6 13mm
bulletMeade 5000 2" UWA 24mm (deep-sky)
bulletMeade 5000 2" SWA 34mm
bulletToo many filters to count.

Remote Control

bulletMeade 505/USB computer control cables
bulletStarry Night Pro 6 telescope control software.


bulletSuncast 8000 storage shed
bulletSuncast 1000 small storage box

"The Great Courses" DVD Lecture Sets
from The Teaching Company


Black Holes Explained, Prof. Alex Filippenko

bullet Change and Motion: Calculus Made Clear, Prof. Michael Starbird

Chaos, Prof. Steven Strogatz


Cosmology: The History and Nature of Our Universe, Prof. Mark Whittle


Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe, Prof. Sean Carroll


Discrete Mathematics, Prof. Arthur T Benjamin


Earth's Changing Climate, Prof. Richard Wolfson


Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution, Prof. Richard Wolfson


Great Ideas of Classical Physics, Prof. Steven Pollack


Introduction to Number Theory, Prof. Edward B Burger


Mathematics from the Visual World, Prof. Michael Starbird

bullet Meaning from Data: Statistics Made Clear, Prof. Michael Starbird

My Favorite Universe, Prof. Neil deGrasse Tyson


Particle Physics for Non-Scientists: A Tour of the Microcosmos, Prof. Steven Pollack


Physics in Your Life, Prof. Richard Wolfson


What Are the Chances? Probability Made Clear, Prof. Michael Starbird


Quantum Mechanics: The Physics of the Microscopic World, Prof. Benjamin Schumacher


Queen of the Sciences - A History of Mathematics, Prof. David M Bressoud


Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality, Prof. S. James Gates Jr.


Understanding Calculus - Problems, Solutions and Tips, Prof. Bruce H Edwards


Understanding the Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy, Prof. Alex Filippenko


Zero to Infinity: A History of Numbers, Prof. Edward B Burger

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.

The Universe, Season 3


The Universe, Season 4


Origins, Prof. Neil de Grasse Tyson

Book Library

bulletThe Alchemy of the Heavens - Searching for Meaning in the Milky Way, Ken Croswell
bulletArizona and New Mexico Starwatch, Mike Lynch
bulletAtlas of the Moon, Antonin Rukl
bulletA Brief History of Time (Illustrated), Stephen Hawking
bulletA Briefer History of Time, Stephen Hawking
bulletCosmos, Carl Sagan
bulletThe Cosmos: Astronomy in the New Millennium, Jay M. Pasachoff and Alex Filippenko
bulletDeep Sky Companions - Hidden Treasures,  Stephen James O'Meara
bulletDeep Sky Companions - The Caldwell Objects, Stephen James O'Meara
bulletDeep Sky Companions - The Messier Objects, Stephen James O'Meara
bulletThe Elegant Universe, Brian Greene
bulletFind the Constellations, H.A. Rey
bulletGeorge's Secret Key to the Universe, Lucy & Stephen Hawking
bulletGravity from the Ground Up, Bernard Schutz
bulletThe Nature of Space and Time, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose
bulletThe Next Step - Finding and Viewing Messier's Objects, Ken Graun
bulletNGC 2000.0, Ed. Roger W Sinnot
bulletOn the Shoulders of Giants (Illustrated), Stephen Hawking
bulletThe Pluto Files, Neil deGrasse Tyson
bulletPrinciples of Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis, Donald D Clayton
bulletRelativity Visualized, Lewis Carroll Epstein
bulletThe Sky is NOT the Limit, Neil deGrasse Tyson
bulletThe Stars - A New Way to See Them, H.A. Rey
bulletStarwatch, Robin Kerrod
bulletStarry Night Companion, John Mosley
bulletStellar Spectral Classification, Richard O Gray and Christopher J Corbally
bulletA Stubbornly Persistent Illusion - The Essential Scientific Works of Albert Einstein, Ed. Stephen Hawking
bulletSupernovae and Nucleosynthesis, David Arnett
bulletThe Theory of Everything, Stephen Hawking
bulletTurn Left at Orion, Consolmagno and Davis
bulletThe Universe in a Nutshell, Stephen Hawking
























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