Today was the day to head back to wherever and leave the El Dorado Hotel and Terlingua Ghost Town. John led the first group to leave at 6 am.
I waited for daylight and headed north on TX-118 to Alpine. These pictures were taken in the early morning as I approached Alpine. The altitude here is 5100 feet. It was a rather cool morning.
I saw lots of small animals today. Some were scampering across the road, such as rabbits and road runners. Some were dead, such as rabbits and a dog. One was dying; I saw a rabbit rolling on the road trying to get up just after it had been hit by a car. That was not fun to watch.
I stopped for breakfast in Alpine, then headed north to Ft. Davis and the McDonald Observatory. They have about 10 telescopes scattered about the site. All of the telescopes observe visible or infrared light. I had a ticket for the tour, so I went to the visitors’ center. There they showed a movie about the history of the observatory. After the movie our guide gave a lecture and slide show covering much of astronomy 101. He was very entertaining.
Our guide then took us to see the 107 inch diameter Harlan J. Smith telescope dedicated in about 1968. He started the tour outside the telescope and talked about the mountains on which the major telescopes sit. We had a fantastic view of the surrounding Davis Mountains.
Inside the dome he continued his lecture reciting lots of details about the telescope and how it’s operated. He tilted and rotated it and rotated the dome to demonstrate how they setup the telescope to do an observation.
He then took us to a newer, larger telescope (Hobby-Eberle) that has a radically different design. Instead of having a single paraboloic mirror, this telescope has 91 hexagonal shaped spherical mirrors and is 433 inches in diameter. This type of telescope is much less expensive to build, but it can view only 80% of the sky.
After the tour I headed to Abilene, TX, where I’m staying tonight.