Astro Blog

Jose Bellas's Astronomy Blog.

The 2nd Observatory

I haven't posted an update to my site in a very long time and the reasons for that are numerous and boring. This post is about the four year journey to add a second observatory to our property at Stellar Skies.

The journey begins in August of 2014 when Jim (my partner in the observatory odyssey) purchased a mobile observatory from a fellow astronomer Manuel Briseño.

Here's some pictures of when I picked the observatory up and brought it home:

This is what it looked like after the first pressure washer cleaning:

So after all that cleaning a lot of time passes while we're trying to get the site ready for the second observatory. Things like electrical and construction of the pad took longer than expected. That was compounded further by other non-astronomy factors that just added to the delays.

Finally, two years later in October of 2016 everything is ready to move the observatory to its new home in Texas.

And we're off...

After a brief stop to sleep in Tallahassee I got back on the road headed to Houston where I was meeting Jim.

On I-10 in Mobile Alabama driving through the George Wallace Tunnel.

Crossing the Mississippi River on the   Horace Wilkinson Bridge .

Crossing the Mississippi River on the Horace Wilkinson Bridge.

Then about 15 minutes from my destination outside of Houston on I-45 one of the trailer tires blows out. I guess all those years of sitting took a toll on it. Losing a tire on such an awkward trailer, at night, and at that speed was an experience to say the least.

I was right there when BAM!

Fortunately I had a spare. I think I had that tire changed in 15 minutes. The motivation the cars wizzing by provided really got the pit crew in me going.

Got it done and ready to go!

The next day Jim and I got a new spare tire just in case the other tire suffered a similar failure and got on the road to Pontotoc where Stellar Skies is.

Driving by the Max Starcke Dam outside of Marble Falls Texas.

Finally we arrive at Stellar Skies and there's the slab of concrete OBS2 will now call home right next to OBS1 which has been there since October of 2013.

The following morning work begins to get the observatory off of the trailer and onto the concrete slab. It wasn't easy but with the help of Jarret Lingle and a few of his friends we got it done pretty fast and were able to get going with the installation of the A/C and all of the other equipment.

Aaaannnnnnnddddd it's break time folks...

A/Cs installed and other equipment getting installed.

Found this tiny Rattlesnake in a corner of the observatory while we were installing the equipment and that's how the observatory got the name "Rattler's Den Observatory".

Mount and scope installed.

Scope parked, camera installed, sitting pretty ready to catch photons.

The end of another successful day.

The next day was my last day at Stellar Skies before flying back home to Miami. We gave both observatories a final inspection before leaving.

Beautiful sunrise.

Just about done.

Observatory 1 got a little attention and cleaning before we left.

The FSQ looks so small compared to the DSI 10" RC.

So that was about it, when we left that month (October 2016) we thought we were in great shape but it turned out we still had a lot to do. We had polar alignment issues to over come. We also had the cooling fans on the cameras fail due to mud dauber wasps building nests on the cameras which meant the cameras had to go back to FLI for service. Plus a whole bunch of other minor things that added up. Not to mention that since the observatory isn't local to us getting out there to do those tweaks takes a lot of planing.

As I'm sure you can imagine by now we had a lot of delays in getting the observatory up and running.

In Early June of this year (2018) things began to look better, everything seemed to be lining up, and we started working on really getting the observatory up and running.

We tested many nights, lots of failures with software not talking to other software, crashes, you name it, we had it happen. Then some nights everything seemed to be perfect and the weather would not cooperate. We'd get one exposure and have to shut down for clouds or rain.

Despite all that over the course of the last week we collected enough data for a proper "first light" image. The image is of Messier 97 (The Owl Nebula) and is comprised of 4 hours of data.

This is Jim's first pass at processing. I think it looks great.

We tried to get some data on Messier 13 (The Hercules Globular Cluster) but we were only able to get this one ten minute exposure with the blue filter.

That's the story of OBS2 (Rattler's Den). Comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

Clear Skies.