A week in New Mexico
I’m sitting in Tom Smith’s house at Dark Ridge Observatory near Weed, New Mexico, watching the clouds out the window and the cats sleeping on the sofa. The sun breaks through every now and then, but there is a flash flood warning for the rest of the day. Welcome to the Southwestern monsoon!
This is a multipurpose trip; there are lots of AAVSO telescopes in the vicinity. Tom and I are adding an automatic flat-fielding setup to APASS, as we’ll need it for the CTIO system. This involves soldering a bunch of grain-of-wheat lamps for the illumination source, and building a stand for the screen. Another big reason for the visit is to work on the scattered light issue with APASS. The astrographs cover the biggest field possible with a reflecting system, but because of this, you have to be very careful about flocking and baffling. We’ve got some ideas and hopefully they’ll help. Tom and I are also getting all the parts for the second APASS system and building that up this week.
Tom Krajci is about 30 miles west of here, and I’ll be visiting him on Friday to discuss how he is coming along with the four AAVSOnet telescopes at his observatory. We’ve been improving that setup with a full backup computer for the entire network, plus a warm spare for replacing any telescope computer that goes down. This will keep the downtime to a minimum this season. Tom is also bringing up a new AAVSOnet telescope for our use – a Celestron C11 with Sloan filters. As the APASS survey fills in the sky, use of Sloan filters for amateur work will increase. There are already several projects in queue for the Krajci28 telescope.
Finally, I’m heading to Las Cruces later on Friday to meet with Jon Holtzman. We’re refurbishing the NMSU 24-inch telescope for AAVSOnet use, with significant donations from Gary Walker and Bart Staels to pay for the majority of the effort. This is a nice Boller and Chivens telescope with excellent seeing, and may be on-line by the end of the year.
A busy trip, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I like it when progress is made.