Top Of The World Observatory

 
clear sky clock provided by Attila Danko

Catron County, New Mexico

The observatory was built on 40 acres in New Mexico, right on the Continental Divide at approx. 7600 feet (2321.0 meters) in elevation. The observatory is staffed year round and although winter seems to offer the most favorable conditions and temperatures (CCD Imaging works best in the cold) we have splendid skies for at least 9 months of the year. The monsoon season is a great time to take a vacation as we tend to get all of our rain during this time. The location is really named Top Of The World (see topographical map) so we're not boasting. Current weather conditions, see National Weather Service: Pie Town This observatory is located under Bortle "Class 1" skies (see explanation) so we're very happy with the location. We are the largest observatory in the area and occasionally conduct tours by appointment.

Top Of The World Observatory

Instruments

The equipment is fairly old, a Meade LX200 12" and an SBIG-ST7 with SBIG-CFW8a filter wheel. The pier is sunk 2 feet into bedrock, with a 4 foot tall casing that extends 8 feet outward with reinforcd concrete welded metal rods in te pier are welded into the main reinforced grid. The entire casing was then pumped full of concrete.

The hollow pier was filled with sand and then precision welded and machined to accept the mounting plate. The mount was custom-made and is designed to adjust and level any imperfections in the pier. The pier extends 10 feet above the dome room floor, and the telescope another 3 feet beyond that. This means it can only be reached with a ladder for the moment. We are thinking about installing a large catwalk around the telescope with stairs but it's not a priority.

The data cables are routed through conduits into the control room, where either a Fedora Linux or Windows XP workstation controls the telescope and CCD camera. The observatory is on the net by virtue of a satellite internet system (VSAT) which enables us to control the equipment from remote as well as feed real time weather data back to this site and to the weather underground.

As is readily apparent, the main interest is CCD imaging and we have produced some respectable images considering the limitations of the instruments. At some point we hope to at least upgrade the CCD imaging system and leave it well enough alone since we're able to track reliably up to one hour exposures with even the LX200's sloppy mechanicals.

Meade LX200 12"/SBIG-ST7/CFW8a
Meade LX200 12" SBIG-ST7 w/CFW8a Filter Wheel


Acknowledgments

Attila Danko for providing the most useful tool in the universe and Tony Dodd for providing a place on the net.