Cloudcroft Observatory

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Cloudcroft Observatory
Dome of the Cloudcroft Observatory near Cloudcroft, New Mexico
Cloudcroft Observatory
Organization U.S. Air Force
Location near Cloudcroft, New Mexico
Coordinates
Altitude 2,751 meters (9,026 ft)
Established 1962 (1962)
Closed 1982 (1982)
Telescopes
EOST 1.2 m reflector

Cloudcroft Observatory, also known as the Cloudcroft Electro-Optical Research Facility, was an astronomical observatory located in the Lincoln National Forest near Cloudcroft, New Mexico, approximately 23 kilometers (14 mi) northeast of Alamagordo. It was owned by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and initially operated by the Air Force Avionics Laboratory (AFAL).[1] The facility was built as part of a project to develop new techniques for detecting satellites with electronic imaging devices, which were eventually to replace Project Space Track's Baker-Nunn photographic system.[2]

History[edit]

The site near Cloudcroft was selected by AFAL in 1961 after several months of site characterization, and construction began in 1962.[1][3] First light of the Electro-Optical Surveillance Telescope (EOST) was achieved in 1964. The device was a 1.22 m (48 in) Newtonian telescope on a three-axis mount. The azimuth-elevation-azimuth configuration simplified tracking and allowed for good imaging of objects at zenith. Aiming at poorly constrained targets was assisted by two small Naval sight guns placed in domes on opposite corners of the building. The first automated detection system, the FSR-2, was located at the site in the late 1960s in a separate building. It only operated for one year due to technical and financial reasons. AFAL continued Space Object Identification (SOI) research at Cloudcroft until 1975. At that time the facility was transferred to USAF Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO).[1]

In the late 1970s the facility came under control of the Air Force Geophysical Laboratory, which contracted with Sacramento Peak Observatory to perform various research.[4] Guest researchers also had the opportunity to use the facility.[5] The facility was deactivated in 1982, and in the late 1980s the telescope was transferred to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Table Mountain Observatory.[6][7]

In 1995, NASA began using the facility, which was renamed as NASA Orbital Debris Observatory.[8] A 3.0 m (120 in) liquid mirror telescope was built in the main dome, and operated from 1996 to 2001.[1]

The facility has since been disposed of by the government, and is now owned by a private astronomical organization, the Tzec Maun Foundation. As of April 2013, a 1.0 m (39 in) reflecting telescope was being tested in the main dome.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Lambert, J.; Kissell, K. (2006). "The Early Development of Satellite Characterization Capabilities at the Air Force Laboratories". The Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference: 70. Bibcode:2006amos.confE..70L. 
  2. ^ Shoemaker, M.; Shroyer, L. (2007). "Historical Trends in Ground-Based Optical Space Surveillance System Design". Proceedings of the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference: 1. Bibcode:2007amos.confE...1S. 
  3. ^ SMITH, BRADFORD A.; SALISBURY, JOHN W. (19 Mar 1962). "EVALUATION OF THE CLOUDCROFT, NEW MEXICO SITE FOR A UNITED STATES AIR FORCE PLANETARY OBSERVATORY". AIR FORCE CAMBRIDGE RESEARCH LABS HANSCOM AFB MA. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  4. ^ Africano, J. L.; Schneeberger, T. J.; Worden, S. P. (1979). "The Cloudcroft Observatory 48 inch telescope". Bulletin of the Astronomical Society 11: 392. Bibcode:1979BAAS...11..392A. 
  5. ^ Bopp, B. W.; Noah, P. V.; Klimke, A. (1980). "Stellar surface phenomena - Stellar rotation and the BY Draconis syndrome in the high-eccentricity binary BD+24 deg 692". Astronomical Journal 85: 1386. Bibcode:1980AJ.....85.1386B. doi:10.1086/112811. 
  6. ^ Radick, R. R.; Henry, G. W.; Sherlin, J. M. (1984). "Cloudcroft occultation summary. III - 1982". Astronomical Journal 89: 151. Bibcode:1984AJ.....89..151R. doi:10.1086/113493. ISSN 0004-6256. 
  7. ^ Klett, K. K. (1992). "California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Table Mountain Observatory, Wrightwood, California 92397. Report for the period Jul 1990 - Jul 1991". Bulletin of the Astronomical Society 24: 119. Bibcode:1992BAAS...24..119K. 
  8. ^ Mulrooney, Mark (2000). "A 3.0 meter liquid mirror telescope". p. 101. Bibcode:2000PhDT.......101M. 
  9. ^ Ron Wodaski (2013-04-26). "One-meter telescope tests, late April 2013". Tzec Maun Foundation. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 

External links[edit]