Dome 3

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3/20  Well, I am running out of time to get the dome finished and operational before the refigured mirror arrives with Mike and Bob. The small shutter motor has been replaced with a much larger one, but it moves the door way too fast to be practical. At least we can observe a bit to try to out the optics. I have been driving myself crazy trying to solve the shutter problems, and Jeannie keeps telling me to just calm down; it will all work out in the end.

Jack  and Alice Newton are coming over to visit this weekend.  Jack has built many domes with roll back shutters so he has a lot of experience with them, so perhaps he can help.

Jeannie and I have been observing since 1983 with many different telescopes. We know the difference between a really good mirror and one that is not the best. However, we did not really know just how fine a large mirror could be made from Pyrex that is only 2" thick. Vaughn Parsons of Intermountain Optics had made us a really fine 36" f/5 mirror in 1993 for the Yard Scope, so we trusted him to make the 42 f/4 in 2002. The images were never sharp, the scope would not take a lot of power, but they were so bright that we did enjoy using the scope for 10 years. At the time Vaughn was the only mirror maker with the equipment large enough to make a 42.

Over the ten years we used the Beast we knew that the mirror could have a smoother surface. Sometimes it worked quite well, and other times it suffered - it was very seeing dependent.

Meanwhile, Mike Lockwood had earned a fine reputation as a good large mirror maker over the years. We were able to look

through many  of his mirrors at Chiefland. When Mike visited Chiefland and looked through the 42, his comments were that he could make it better. We made arrangements to have him refigure the mirrror during the year the scope would be down as we made the move to better skies in New Mexico.

The mirror refiguring is finished and recoated, and Mike and Bob Noneman are delivering the mirror in person. They are arriving on 4/1 and plan to stay for a week.

Mirror before refiguring. Weird!

3/28  The dome is basically finished and operational. We have a 90 volt variable speed DC motor lined up, so the shutter will operate more safely, without danger of wrecking the gears. The scope will be going in shortly.

The desert landscaping (gravel) was just finished around the observatory. We now have room to set up a dozen of friend's telescopes in our small observing area, along with spaces for four visitor's RVs.  Our plan is to have small private star parties for our friends.

4/4 Jeannie's birthday! The dome shutter was finally opened all the way for the first time today. Just another small adjustment or two and it is time to start setting up the scope.

Mike Lockwood and Bob Noneman helped with the final setting up. Mike is not only a great mirror maker, but also was full of ideas on how adjust the shutter so it would finally start working. Mike and Bob not only brought the finished mirror, but also a new 90 volt variable speed DC motor and control that solved the problem I was having.

4/5 We played our usual golf game this morning, then afterwards at 2PM started moving the scope into the dome. Thought it would take just a couple of hours to get it ready. Finally, at 10:48PM the scope was aimed at Polaris, so we could start to align finderscopes. A couple of hours later we fell into bed after viewing the first few objects. Lots of minor tweaking to do before all is ready, but at least we know that it still works.

Near the end of March, 2013, Mike Lockwood delivered the refigured and recoated mirror for the Beast, and helped install the scope back in the dome. He wrote an article on his web site about the trip here:

Mike is an excellent photographer and took these last three photos.

Are you ready to retire to good skies and live among other astronomer in a place that is not at the end of the world? Come join us at the NMAV for the time of your life!

Tom Clark