I haven’t been able to image in a while due to work travel and weather, but I did get to spend some time out at the HAS observatory this past weekend getting checked out to use the facility. I have been able to access the dark site (which is very nice) for some time now, but it’s about 110 miles (one way) from my house and takes a little planning and commitment to head out for a night… especially when the HAAS dark site is half the distance from me.
The HAS observatory has three tracking telescopes, but only one of them has go-to capability. They have a 12.5″ f/5 that is very easy to use and mounted such that most targets are viewable without any sort of step ladder to reach the eyepiece… even for short guys like me. They have another 12.5″ f/7 that is on extended loan from NASA. This scope is massive and the optical quality is quite amazing. It is also easy to operate, but due to the enormity of this behemoth, it requires a ladder to put the seeing-balls onto the eyepiece. Lastly, they have a 14″ SCT that is fork-mounted and connected to a computer running an older version of Software Bisque’s The Sky for control. All three scopes are very nice and housed in a permanent observatory building with a nine ton retractable metal roof.
I had the opportunity to get checked out for solo access to the observatory and had a great time learning the systems and procedures for operation. The 14″ is really the only scope set up for reasonable imaging and I don’t know how to tie an autoguider into that system, so I likely won’t be using it for imaging any time soon. It is nice to know that I can access the facility now for visual astronomy and learning with some fantastic tools.
Astronomy, and specifically astrophotography, is a journey in learning and developing skills. I’m not sure there is a way to truly master the observation and appreciation of a subject asymptotically infinite. My brain doesn’t compute on the scale of the universe. Like most technical hobbies, the tools and toys evolve with our skillset. I met a friendly fellow enthusiast on the field over the course of the evening that picked up astronomy nearly a decade and a half ago and had an impressive showing of astrophotography pr0n on display. I’ll just leave this here: