As you may know, we’re just back from our summer road trip to west Texas and New Mexico. We planned the dates of the trip specifically so we would be in West Texas on a moonless Tuesday. Moonless since the dark skies out there are legendary and we would, therefore, get the best views and a Tuesday so that we could attend a Star Party at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory.
As a space buff, I had been really keen to visit the observatory for years. In the end, however, we were rather disappointed since the skies were cloudy during our visit and there was nothing to see.
OK, that’s not quite true. We did see the International Space Station glinting through a couple of holes in the cloud cover as it passed over. Maybe next time we’ll see the stars.
This shot shows one of the little observatories used during the star parties. I don’t remember the details but there’s something like a 12 or 18 inch reflector in there. The dot on the right hand side of the image is the rather more fantastic Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) which boasts an amazing 11m x 10m primary mirror. It’s surface is comprised of a collection of hexagons that can be moved to adapt the mirror shape dynamically to compensate for atmospheric distortion.
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