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The Lone Star Observatory

It may be Oklahoma, but this amateur-built observatory is all Texas.

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Inside the clubhouse, the lights, instead of the customary white, are a dim red, which helps preserve essential night vision. Even the refrigerator is equipped with a red light, to eerie effect—when you open the door, the light renders the Coke cans virtually invisible.

At about 2:30 a.m., we turn in for a two-hour nap, then get up to observe Jupiter and Saturn, which by then have risen in the east. Unfortunately, the early morning has also brought in a thick haze, and the sky is virtually impenetrable. Jupiter and Saturn are both disappointing—revealing about as much detail as you would get with an average backyard telescope under ideal conditions. “This is part of the risk,” Walker says. “The weather can completely turn on you.”

But all is not lost. As we gather outside, a bright meteor streaks across the sky, breaking into chunks that leave long, dramatic trails.

Later, as we all leave for breakfast, the members invite the visitors to return. You can’t see the universe in only one night.

 


Aiming for the Stars

The telescope’s base is angled, so the shaft from the right ascension gear can be kept parallel to Earth’s axis. That alignment helps the telescope to track various objects as they “move” across the sky.

Calibrated into millions of steps, the computerized gears can move the telescope in tiny (arc second) intervals. The computer plots each coordinate and then actuates the motorized worm gears (inset) to move the telescope.

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