Friday, August 29, 2008

On top of Mount Locke

Clouds float by Mt Locke

Yesterday I drove across Texas to McDonald Observatory.  As always, it was a long drive.  I think there must be a buzzard convention in the area, because many times I came around a corner to see a flock of buzzards just sitting in the road, even though there was no roadkill for them to eat.  Or maybe they were hoping to cause me to wreck, thereby getting an easy meal.  Either way, it was a little odd.  I also saw a tarantula crossing the road, as well as what used to be several armadillos.  And, these days, no trip across West Texas is complete without seeing a truck or two carrying parts for the construction of wind farms.  Yesterday I saw two semis, each carrying a single blade for a windmill.  It's eye-opening to see how big the windmills are, when it takes an extra-long semi to carry a single blade.

Starting tonight I have seven nights on the 82-inch telescope.  Unfortunately, as you can see above, the weather is not very favorable.  It rained overnight, and will probably rain again this afternoon and tomorrow and Sunday.  Thick clouds are drifting overhead, with delicate tendrils reaching down toward the mountain tops.  Occasional bursts of brilliant blue sky appear behind the clouds.  Some of the mountainsides have long-dormant waterfalls cascading down into the desert floor.  It's gorgeous, but not conducive to astronomical research.

Still, I'll prepare this afternoon as if it is going to be a clear night.  One never knows; the clouds could magically part, and if I'm not ready to go, I could miss the only clear weather of the week.  Most likely, though, we're going to be socked in until at least Monday.

In the coming days I'll blog about what I'm looking at, and maybe make a few changes to the website along the way.  These cloudy observing runs are good for that sort of thing.

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