Living in the Pacific Northwest, USA, where it is cloudy most of the year, I’ve searched a long time for a remote imaging facility that fits my needs. I have found that, and much more, at Astronomy Acres in Rodeo, New Mexico. Here is a facility where one of my telescopes has found its new home! The site is in the far southwestern corner of New Mexico, under Bortle 1 skies, at an elevation of almost a mile. Standing outside the observatory at night, one can barely see the ground. The owner of the facility, Larry Wilson, an amateur astronomer himself with his own telescopes on the premises, has thought of everything. My telescope is one of six that can occupy a huge roll-off roof observatory. Each pad has separate electrical power, an uninterruptible power supply and a secure Internet connection. If power is lost for any reason, I get an immediate notification on my phone so I can take appropriate action while the UPS keeps everything powered. Indoor security cameras and an outdoor weather camera keep tabs on everything. There is a fully equipped warm room attached to the observatory if one is staying for a few days while getting things set up. If there are any issues, Larry is just a text message away.
Larry’s hospitality goes way beyond anything I was expecting. He provided me a place to stay for the four days and nights I was there getting my equipment set up and tested. He had a custom pier built to match my mount and installed before I even got there. He drove me back and forth from his home to the observatory many times. He stayed up night after night with me to make sure everything was working perfectly as we ran through multiple simulated imaging runs. Even after my return home, as I learn the ins and outs of remote imaging software, Larry has offered help, suggestions and onsite assistance. You couldn’t ask for a more genial host or dedicated site manager. We very quickly blew past being owner and client to become good friends.
As for the imaging, the pictures (which I wish I could include here) speak for themselves. Objects too low in the sky to image well from home (M8, M20) are an easy catch. Really faint objects, such as the Blue Horsehead Nebula (IC4592) show up beautifully in these incredibly dark skies. I have even imaged the faint Integrated Flux Nebula around Polaris, something I can’t ever do from home even with it higher in the sky. I’m looking forward to having mountains of data to process!
People say if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Astronomy Acres is an exception to that rule. It sounded too good to be true when a friend of mine first told me about it. After a month of remote imaging from there, I can attest that it is true. I couldn’t be happier.
Arnie W. from Corvallis, Oregon