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Young's Photo Gallery

James W. Young, Professional Photographer

Photographic History of Table Mountain Observatory


 Part 6: Larger Optical Telescopes, Optical Programs Expand
Section B

By James W. Young
retired astronomer from Table Mountain Observatory

The Cloudcroft, New Mexico 48-inch f6.5 Newtonian/Cassegrain used
Telescope was acquired and brought to Table Mountain Observatory,
and housed in Building number TM-27.

Another new telescope building was constructed to house a 1.2 meter Newtonian/Cassegrain
telescope once used by the U.S. Military to image Earth orbiting satellites during the cold
war.  JPL's only initial expence was $72,000 in shipping charges.  This newly constructed
building to house the telescope, telescope control room, electronics shop, and utility room
for the vacuum chamber room (to coat the entire observatory's telescope mirrors) was an
additional $250,000.  Construction was started in the Summer of 1988.

Foundation for the 48-inch telescope building - June 1988

The foundation, including the center telescope pier - July 1988

Watching the new building take shape; (R to L) Ed Tyson, the original engineer in charge of
the 48-inch telescope when it was used in Cloudcroft in the 1960s, Kevin Hernandez, a new
JPL employee to oversee the eventual 48-inch telescope operations, and Pamela Glatfelter,
the observatory site facility secretary.  Tyson, with his wife Roberta (far left), came to
Table Mountain to supervise the specific concrete pier foundation and eventual telescope
mounting sections.

The telescope base mounting plate - August 1988

The round dome-shaped building part continues to grow with the outside walls taking shape
(the last two images taken from the site's 90-foot telphone pole) - August 1988

The top of the dome wall section being prepared for the new 30-foot Ash Dome ledge ring.
 September 1988


The other portion of the building starting to take shape - September 1988

Control room, electronics shop, and utility room almost finished - September 1988

The 30-foot Ash Dome was constructed on the ground next to the building...

A crane lifted the finished dome, and placed it on the round dome building section.
September 1988

The finishing touches of the entire building exterior in early October 1988

One last look from the 90-foot pole - October 1988

Last minute exterior finishing touches...

The outside of TM-27 is finished

A view of TM-27 taken several years later showing the AC units (lower right center), to be
described later - Summer 1998

The two central piers to hold the 'track' axis for the alt-alt-azimuth telescope

Tyson preparing to hoist the track and cross-track center hub onto the twin piers

The twin piers and center hub ready for the long telescope tube assembly

The center section of the telecope tube has a new off-axis Cassegrain f/29 focus hole and
bracket assembly prepared by our facility's machinist, Bruce Williamson.

The entire telescope tube, with its new Cassegrain round mounting plate attached, is swung
into the dome and attached to the track and cross-track axis mounting plate.

The completed tube assembly and pier section painted, ready for operation in 1989

A second view of the telescope assembly

A visitor from Australia, Ken Stevens, gives a good size comparison of this large telescope
in late 1989.

The 48-inch telescope's dedication in 1989 had (L to R) Mustafa Chahine, Dan Sidwell, and
Jack Tallon in attendance.

During the telescope dedication, visitors included Marjorie and Aden Meinel (the former
director of the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona) standing with Dan Sidwell (Table
Mountain's site manager) 1989.

By 1990, Kevin Hernandez was moved to another JPL position, and Karl Klett assumed the
new position for the 48-inch telescope operations.

After considerable discussions on the seeing characteristics at Table Mountain, a study of
the seeing conditions revealed the need to 'air condition' the dome interior during the day
in preparation for the night-time temperatures.  Both TM-12 and TM-27 domes were then
insulated using three-inch thick irregular shaped panels and bolted to the interior dome skin
curved walls...a very tedious task in 1992.  Two large air conditioning units were installed
inside this dome, whereas only one unit was needed in the 24-inch telescope building.

Attaching the insulation panels at the top of the 48-inch telescope interior dome skin...

Karl Klett at the control room console in 1993.  The Control software for the telescope was
still in the making by a new sub-contractor from Colorado, Gary Grasdalen.

Time to try out the vacuum chamber, under the direction of Tyson (left), with onlookers,
Don Young (right), and Klett.  The author was being trained to do this process under the
watchful eyes of Tyson (this, his second trip to the observatory to assist for the new
telescope operations).

The vacuum chamber, with its roughing pump in the foreground, its cryo-pump to the right
with the blue label, and the associated electronics to the left.  The chamber's gases were
pumped out and up the black ABS vertical pipe through a ceiling vent and hood on the roof.

A new hoist to lift the mirror using the mirror's collar to swing it in place onto the vacuum
chamber's internal bracket support.  See the next image. The mirror was cleaned of its
prior silver coating using chemicals, room ventilation, and PPEs for safety purposes.  The
seemingly visual mirror imperfections seen here, are actually bubbles and holes inside and
on the back of the un-silvered mirror.

The final cleaning and preparation of the mirror for coating in the chamber by the author.

The finished product, the first test, was done in May 1993.  Aluminum was used, as silver
coating was extremely toxic. TM-27 was never set up to do silver coating, so aluminum was
the easiest choice.  Here, Klett is admiring our first results.

The second coating operation was done a week later, and the final results were superior to
the first one.  Here the author shows his satisfaction to the photographer.

Under very careful scrutiny, the mirror could be washed of dirt and grime while still in the
mirror cell and telescope.  The excess distilled water was vacuumed off the surface, and a
small amount of ethyl alcohol was used to help remove the excess water drops.  With three
 people, the entire operation of removing the mirror, cleaning it, coating in the chamber, and
returning to the telescope was four total days.

After Karl Klett resigned so he could return to assist his ailing parents in Pennsylvania, JPL
hired Steve Gillam to take over the 48-inch operations. A good move, since Gillam had been
a student of Gary Grasdalen in Wyoming many years earlier.

Here, Grasdalen is seen here working on the software to control the 48-inch telescope. He
wrote a completely new telescope control program, using Borland C++.

Grasdalen made several 'clients' to operate the various telescope and dome functions into a
MS Windows platform for a single computer.  Despite many years of attempts, Grasdalen's
program was never able to completely control the telescope, especially under windy weather
conditions.  The telescope would occasionally 'get away', and crash into the dome wall edge.
Although some science was done with this instrument by Padma Yanamandra-Fisher in 1994.
the telescope was never really used for any in-depth astronomy science.  It was eventually
removed after being sold to an outside group.

The author visited the Lowell Observatory to see an old 1-meter telescope they had for
possible sale to replace the 48-inch at Table Mountain.  This instrument, seen here in
storage, was purchased after the author retired from JPL.

Here is the restored 1-meter Lowell telescope now in the 30-foot dome that used to house
the Cloudcroft 48-inch telescope.  It has been in operation to this day (2020).

End of Part 6B     Part 7


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