Your Local Observatory
The last few weeks I've heard from several observers that they haven't been able to do any observing due to poor weather and I got to thinking: if we can't talk about our observations, why not talk about our observatories?
Given that I'm still a student and that I've used several different observatories, I thought I would talk about my "first observatory", the Sachleten Observatory of Hastings College pictured below (with a super-cell thunderstorm and what remains of my radio telescope I built for my senior project in the background):
The observatory is located three-miles south of Hastings, Nebraska in an excellent dark sky location. The roll-off roof (white and brown above) protects four telescopes mounted on peers. The observing deck is a suspended wooden floor about four feet below the upper-edge of the wall that is physically isolated from the peers on which the telescopes are mounted. Power is supplied to the scopes through outlets mounted on the peers with wires strung up through the peers. The base of the peers are, in turn, isolated from the concrete floor of the storage room below. The northern side of the main floor (left side in the image above) is a classroom for astronomy courses at Hastings College.
Throughout most of the year, the observatory has a great view of the sky, so good in fact that it was difficult to find the brightest constellations because there were so many stars in the sky (see image of the Milky Way below)!
64-second exposure at f/2.8, although it looks basically like this with your eyes on a good night.
The observatory has one 14" telescope mounted on a Bisque Paramount, a 10" Mead, and an 8" Celestron scope. We also have a telescope we call "Big Bertha" which is an 8" Newtonian made by a Hastings College student as a senior project. He used some aluminium irrigation pipe as the tube and (I think) hand-ground the mirror.
My former boss (at the planetarium) and good friend, Dan Glomski, puts on two public shows at the observatory each month. If you are in the area, check out the program on Hastings College's Sachleten Observatory page.
Well, that's my home town observatory. Where do you observe? What was/is your first/favorite/current observatory? What makes it special? What do you like/dislike about it?