This past weekend I had a fabulous opportunity that not many people get to see the innards of the McDonald Observatory's famous telescopes and domes through a special tour guided by my friend Coyne. In addition to seeing the telescopes, I was lessoned how their photographic capabilities were used for scientific purposes. Not only am I amazed at the size of the telescopes but also how a couple of the telescopes could be altered with different mirrors to be used for different aspects of astronomy. One of my favorite rooms of the McDonald Observatory was the library. It had McDonald's private collection locked away behind glass for few to see along with the original time piece of the observatory.
Upon arrival at my camp grounds I was worried about the clouds sticking around and ruining my chance to get any night time photographs of the Milky Way. During the past month I put together a bracket using some Losmandy products so that I could capture the Milky Way on a electronic mount that was autoguided. Due to the monsoon rains almost being over in West Texas, the clouds cleared up both of the nights of my stay as predicted by the observatory. The sky was amazing. Starry, crisp and clear thanks to my new glasses! The last night that I was there, with the permission of Coyne, I went up to one of the observatories and shot the Milky Way with a 41 minute exposure at 100 ISO; below are the results. Despite the high winds on top of the mountain, the autoguider kept the mount on track with little issues.
I was amazed at how clear the sky was and at how many stars were present in the sky. I've never seen how dark the sky could get because I've always lived in or near a larger city. I hope to return someday to the observatory to visit my friends and see the gorgeous colorful skies Fort Davis has to offer. Thank you again Coyne and Vicki for all you did to make my trip possible. See you soon.