Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New and Improved!

Way back when I first moved to Arizona back in '79, I actually worked and lived at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), about a 55 mile drive to the southwest of Tucson. It was a dream job - rubbing elbows every day with astronomers at the forefront of the field, using some of the largest telescopes in the world at a fantastic mountaintop location. I lasted over 5 years before deciding to pursue a living in optics, but KPNO was and still is, a magical place for me.

By living on the mountain, I worked and breathed telescopes and astronomy. I was an avid photographer and I was often out roaming at night with camera and tripod. Though I didn't need much motivation, KPNO also published a few calendars in the early 80s, and were always looking for new shots for them and postcards for the visitor center.

One of my favorites is shown at left - a 45 minute exposure from about 28 years ago back in the 35mm film days. Camera and tripod were set up at a pullout at milepost 11. After starting the exposure, I drove the little jeep we used to drive the mile up the road and used the tail lights to "paint" the 4-Meter dome at left. It enjoyed a short life as a postcard in the visitor center, and I never got the original back, though I did get 50 free postcards! I occasionally still see it (most recently about 5-6 years ago) in astronomy calendars!

Latest Update: The NOAO Public Information Office located my image and supplied me with the high resolution scan shown here. Thanks Guys! And by the way, everyone I've heard express an opinion prefers this 25-year-old image to the newer ones below... What the heck do they know?! !

Fast forward to 2005. After a major heart surgery, when it was apparent I was going to survive, I got one of them newfangled digital SLRs, and one of my first trips up to Kitt Peak in January of 2006, image #482 is shown here. This one is a 2 minute exposure with a fast lens (85mm F/2) from the same location. It became another favorite of mine, and still serves as the background image for my laptop computer since taking it almost 6 years ago. Clicking and saving the image loads a size that should work for you if you are interested...

As nice as that image is, it was a little short in my opinion because it missed that little framing glow around the base of the telescope. So this last Saturday I parked again at the mile post 11 pullout (in the very spot where 5 weeks ago Melinda and I saw a largish mountain lion leave the road as our headlights approached!) to take a few more images. Fortunately I was able to catch a car circle the telescope to catch a little highlight glow. I like it a little better than the 2006 image - but I'm always wondering how I can make it better... Suggestions?


Phil and Lauren said...

the first image is incredible!!

David A. Harvey said...

Sweet prose and pics Dean! You back in town yet? Let's do some astrophotography! Need to try out my setup under dark skies . . .

Astroweis said...

Hi Dean,

no need to make it better. Your picture from the seventies can't be improved. Except you had one with a laser guide star. But they don't have that on Kitt Peak, do they?