Observatory Corner - March 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar March, 2020.


I'm a reader, not a writer. At least, I think that's how the saying should go. When I was asked to write a "short" Observatory Corner piece, I had my trepidation. I prefer to leave the wordsmithery and coining to the experts; i.e., not me. How does one start when writing these things? How do I start? With a deficit of creative juices in the written word arena, this will have to do:

The past:
2019 turned out to be a fairly busy year if you look at the amount of maintenance that went on out at the Dark Site. For the major jobs, we replaced the well pump that failed and added an iron breaker to improve the quality of the water. The air conditioner and dehumidifiers in the main observatory were replaced with more energy efficient units and a couple of the large breaker boxes were replaced. The main roof motor was replaced along with the gear reducer and a few electronic components.

The present:
We continue to work on the roof electronics of the observatory and are getting closer to a fix. It's been a particularly complex problem with dozens of different logical steps and components involved.
Mowing season will be upon us soon and with that comes tree trimming and all the other things that spring brings. We’re just about to bring an extension of the WiFi online and will provide better coverage on the east side of the observatory and the picnic area. Observatory training will resume once the roof operations are complete and training for the RC/MX will start shortly after. I know, I know...finally.  ...

The not so distant future:
We'll be calling for volunteers to help with a few larger, projects this year. The first is the removal of a couple dead trees around the picnic and trailer area and some tree trimming around the different buildings. Second, is the replacement of the lights along the roads with a more robust post and solar powered, red LED lighting.  And the third is the replacement of all the hose bibbs on the property. This should keep us busy for a bit as long as nothing else major breaks.

March 7th brings the annual gate code change and new for this year, WiFi password change.

Some of you may be thinking, "Yay! We'll get a shorter, easier to remember password!" No, sorry. It will still be a complex password.  The Internet Usage Policy and link to obtain the password is and will be HERE.

To get started (and after you finish reading this short article), you can access the material and quiz by navigating to About the Society - Observatory. Scroll down to the Online Orientation section and mash the big “Start your Training” button. Note, you must be logged on to the website and current in your membership dues in order to see the material. After taking the quiz, it may take a short while to receive the email and links to acquire the code. It’s an entirely manual process on my part to have the messages sent out.

If you’ve made it this far, and I hope you have, here are a couple additional but important reminders.

  1. PLEASE remember to fill out your dark site or observatory building log reports online or by filling out the paper forms and dropping them in the appropriate boxes. These need to be filled out every time you visit the site. If you log on to the HAS website, there is a link on the right hand side to “Create a Dark Site Log Report” and to “Create an Observatory/Building Log Report". We are on a 99 year lease with the Fondren Family and part of that lease agreement is that we maintain a record of how much and how often he site is being used. We cannot gather that data unless the log reports are filled out. If you have any questions on how to fill out log reports, where they are, or the correct gate procedures, I would be glad to go over them with you. You can also review the Dark Site Orientation on the website.
  2. As a safety reminder please note the sign posted on the side of the metal building at the Dark Site which has directions to the hospital and contact information for the sheriff’s department it also has the address to the site in case of a medical emergency.

We can always use volunteers to help out with maintenance, mowing, and improvements. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or would like to help out, please drop me a note or stop me when in my running around the site.

See you out at the dark site!
Chris Ober
HAS Observatory Director

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