Deep Skies – Exploring the Space Sites of the South-Western States


Speaker: Mat Irvine

Date: 18 July 2012
Start Time: 7 pm
End Time: 8:30 pm

Venue: 27/29 South Lambeth Road, London, SW8 1SZ

Much of the continent of the south-western portion of the United States is at a high altitude. To this add skies clear of light pollution, and the invisible wavelengths clear of much radio interference and you have an ideal set-up for astronomical research. The wide open spaces are also perfect for aeronautical and rocket research and the same wide open spaces – and consequential sparse population – possibly a natural setting for other matters to do with ‘flying objects’ – identified or otherwise…

Mat takes a road trip across the southern states, including New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, California, and a small bit of Texas, to visit such diverse sites as the 27 dishes of the Very Large Array on the Plains of San Augustin; the Mount Wilson Observatory overlooking the sprawl that is Los Angeles and the desert area south of Tucson that is the Pima Air and Space Museum. It includes the obvious – the McDonald Observatory in the very corner of Texas; Kitt Peak, the largest collection of telescopes in one place and the Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham, Arizona, and the perhaps not-so-obvious, Biosphere, also in Arizona, that could have delivered the first crews that could be on their way to Mars! To these add in such as White Sands – both Missile and National Monument; the resting place of space chimp Ham – which is the International Space Hall of Fame, Alamogordo and various sites of petroglyphs – rock carvings – many of which seem to have astronomical significance? Included will be the largest natural hole in the ground, Meteor Crater, and not that far away (well by US distances anyway), along part of what used to be Route 66, to Cinder Lake where – possible appropriately? – the only off-road car, to date, was tested.  He will also look at the opposite ends – both literally and metaphorically – of the Town of Roswell, New Mexico. At one end sits the local town museum with its section dedicated to Robert H. Goddard and a recreation of his rocket workshop. Then travel to the other end of town, passing lampposts adorned with oddly-shaped heads featuring large sloping eyes… – to the UFO Museum in a converted cinema. If you ‘want to believe’, you may even get an account of his trip out from the town, 35 miles north to a large flat expanse of scrubland, where with the sun going down, those oddities of the high atmosphere, lenticular clouds can form – maybe leading some into thinking they are objects from another place?

It’s the Deep Skies of the South-Western States – anything can happen…

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