The observatory is surrounded by earth berms and is strategically located to avoid as much light pollution as possible from campus and town. Several telescopes are available for use at the observatory, the most noteworthy ones including a 20-inch Dobsonian inside a 15-foot dome, both on loan from club member Ken Mason, and a Celestron 14 on a Paramount GT-1100 mount, on loan from the NMT Physics Department. The building itself is operated and maintained by the NMT Astronomy Club. The Club is in a joint research agreement with the NMT Physics Department.
The main building, apart
from the dome, measures 12 × 24 ft., and consists of two rooms.
The front door opens to an office/workshop space, and then a door
opens from there to the observing room, which houses the C-14. An
unusual feature of the observatory is its automated roll-off roof,
which uses a garage-door mechanism to open and close for observing.
Behind the main building, there is a raised deck, where a 6-inch Shiefspiegler
is kept under a rotating dome. To the side, there is a storage shed
which contains an 8-inch Newtonian and a 13-inch Dobsonian. Building
plans are available if you are interested in constructing a similar
Currently the Etscorn Observatory is growing. A gallery has been set up to show the construction of a brand new facility at the observatory. Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education we are building a 'Resource' building to provide educational outreach to schools. As you can see, it is a fairly large building that will surround the 16 ft. dome. The dome itself will be raised so that it can be entered through standard doors. The building includes a large 'resource' room, kitchen, bathroom, control room (for the telescope in the 16 ft. dome) and a storage area/shop.
Construction began during the week of January 17th and if all goes well, may be completed by early June. Early construction photos show activity associated with installation of all plumbing and other conduits that will be under the building slab. Trenching also was needed for electrical, fiber optic cable and phone cables. The large 8 inch diameter pipe is a drain that will carry water away from the building runoff and that which collects inside the berm. 'Lake Etscorn' will be a thing of the past!
The digging and trenching was done very slowly and carefully in order to avoid damage to existing buried conduits and cables. This was pretty tricky and we are happy to report that none of the old lines were damaged! Tech workers are building the new facility and it is a tribute to their skill and care that the first stages were completed without incident.
If you visit
the observatory in the near future keep in mind that it is a construction
zone. As such, there are many dangers which are even worse in the
dark! Please do not go beyond any barriers put up to mark the construction
area. Keep watching this page as we will provide updates as construction
New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club