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A Stellar experience at New Mexico skies

Posted by Murray Carlson   09/29/2004 12:00AM

A Stellar experience at New Mexico skies
[ARTICLEIMGR="1"]The equipment is superb. The training (and patience) is first rate and the skies are as dark as any you will find in the lower 48. But more importantly the consistency of the seeing is phenomenal. My research showed an unusually high rate of clarity given a 4 or 5 night block of time. A most welcome fact when there is a need to advance book rooms and equipment. The first thing we noticed upon our arrival was the newness and high quality of nearly everything we saw! The accommodations we chose were the two bedroom lodge. The kitchen was huge and the satellite TV was a surprise. We spotted a dozen hummingbirds our first afternoon.

The first two nights I reserved the 30” Tech Dobsonian. I bought my cousin with me for the first of many “guy” trips we are arranging. I got to choose the first venue. Jayme has never looked through a telescope before so I was anxious to hear his reactions. We met Lynn at the 30” around 9:30 pm for our training. She expertly showed us the workings of the DSC and set us free. Jayme commented that I should have warned him about the 12 foot ladder he had to climb! Oh well. I have to be honest in saying that before those two nights hunting down nearly 150 objects you would think that neither one of us had ever looked through a telescope before! The views were simply amazing. The dark skies, 7300 foot elevation and dry air enhanced the seeing and made Jayme and I fall in love with the hobby. (Again for me!). But the best was yet to come.

The next two nights I reserved the 12” SCT and 25” Dob for Jayme and I learned how to do CCD with Lynn’s better half, Mike. You can choose from a 6” A/P, 16” SCT and 14” SCT all equipped with PC’s, SBIG CCD’s and The Sky software. One dome has the .5 meter R/C but that wasn’t ready when we were there. Mike has a gentle manner and a patience that I really appreciated. His equipment is absolutely top rate and he hands it over to guys like me to fool with. I reserved an hour with Mike for training but I got much more. He really cares about your experience and the production of good results. All of my work was captured on a CD that I have now at home. No one can believe my results. I can’t believe that it was really that easy. Mike made it seem so easy to understand.

The trip was punctuated by daily hiking in the nearby fossil beds. An incredible experience by itself. Each night at midnight we enjoyed Mike and Lynn making cappuccinos.

The trip to New Mexico Skies really made a believer out of me. There really is a place where dark, clear skies are common place, where the equipment actually works well and where things as tricky as CCD imaging can be done successfully. It’s an astronomer’s paradise and Jayme wants to use his turn to go back. I know I will.