Sunday, March 8, 2020

Day 3727

I made it to McDonald Observatory. but it is a very It's a long drive to West Texas. I purposely made the trip on a Sunday because traffic is much lighter. I got started later than I'd planned, but I still made it in time for dinner at the Astronomer's Lodge. I guess you could call the Astronomer's Lodge a hotel, but it is not what you would expect. The place is located at the top of Mount Locke, right next to the big telescopes. The windows all have black out curtains to prevent extraneous light from reaching the telescopes. The hallways are dark, illuminated only by dim red bulbs. Astronomers come and go throughout the night and they don't want to ruin their night vision. You are encouraged to be quiet during the day, since that's when most of the astronomers sleep. There are no radios and televisions at the Astronomer's Lodge. I think this the first hotel I've ever stayed in that didn't have a television.

This place is very quiet. I walked around the mountain a bit before it got dark and there was no noise at all. There was no traffic noise. No airplanes overhead. No police sirens. Nothing at all. The Astronomer's Lodge is silent as well. I talked to a few people during dinner, but after the kitchen crew went home, silence returned. The strangest thing is the place feels like you are on a boat. The building was built on piers on the side of a cliff and in a strong wind, you can feel the entire building move. This feels a little unsettling, but the building has been here a long time and it hasn't blown away yet. The mountain is almost always windy and sometimes the winds can become quite strong. I've heard stories that winds have become so strong that once the dome of the huge 107" telescope was blown completely off its tracks.

Room rates for the Astronomer's Lodge include three meals a day. Breakfast is serve yourself and they will pack a lunch for you if you are busy. Dinner was excellent tonight. Once you're here, there's not much reason to leave. When I checked in, I was given two keys. One was my room key but I couldn't figure out what the second key was for. I asked the manager and she said, "Oh, the second key is for the telescopes. Jeez. I've got a key that opens the 82" Otto Struve and the 107" Harlan Smith telescopes. Sure is tempting. I'd better not go in the buildings on my own though. I'd probably be banned from this place for life.

There are no activities tonight, but my first work shift starts tomorrow. I'll be manning one of the Star Party telescopes and explaining Open Clusters to visitors. Hopefully the weather will be better than it is today. I seems to bring clouds with me to the observatory. It was very overcast when I arrived. It's a good thing that no Star Parties were planned for tonight. There's not much to see.

I knew I would forget a few things on my trip. I always do. I really tried to remember everything, but I forgot to bring a hat. I'm probably going to have to buy a wool hat at the visitor center gift shop tomorrow. It's pretty cold at night and I'm definitely going to need a warm hat. I also forgot to bring my good binoculars. I didn't bring my bad binoculars either. This was a major oversight.

I hope Dawn doesn't forget about me while I'm gone. Janet said she did very well today. She's completely relaxed and it appears she knows she has a home. Janet and I are really glad we adopted Dawn. She's had a hard life and really needs a place where she can rest and relax. She's not a whirling dervish like some of the younger dogs, but neither are we. A sweet older dog is exactly what we need.

I think I'll go outside and see if the clouds have cleared before I go to bed. I won't stay out long though. There are mountain lions and bears up here.

Bacardi is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day