Tortugas Mountain Observatory

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Tortugas Mountain Observatory
Organization New Mexico State University
Location Las Cruces, New Mexico
Coordinates 32°17′35″N 106°41′53″W / 32.2931°N 106.6980°W / 32.2931; -106.6980Coordinates: 32°17′35″N 106°41′53″W / 32.2931°N 106.6980°W / 32.2931; -106.6980
Altitude 1,451 meters (4,760 ft)
Established 1963 (1963)
unnamed telescope 0.61 m reflector

Tortugas Mountain Observatory (TMO) is an astronomical observatory owned and operated by New Mexico State University (NMSU). It is located on Tortugas Mountain, also known locally as 'A' Mountain, in southern New Mexico (USA), approximately 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) southeast of Las Cruces and 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) east of the NMSU campus. Founded in 1963 under the supervision of Clyde Tombaugh, the observatory focused on observing the planets.[1] Much of the information captured at TMO is now available through the Planetary Data System's Atmospheres Node, which is managed by NMSU. The two-dome observatory building was completed in 1964, though observing began with one of the telescopes in 1963.[2] A second building, with a larger single dome, was completed at the opposite end of the ridgeline of Tortugas Mountain in 1967.[3] Regular use of TMO ceased in 1999 or 2000, but the observatory equipment was not dismantled.[4][5] In 2008 it was used for the Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite project.[6] In 2010, efforts to revive the observatory for use by the American Association of Variable Star Observers began. As of 10 June 2011, work on project was reported to be 60-75% done.[7]


  • A 0.61 m (24 in) Cassegrain reflector built by Boller and Chivens was installed in 1967.[3] It remains the largest telescope ever installed at TMO, and the only one reported as operation since 1990. In the 1990s it was used to monitor the Jovian cloud deck and Saturn.[4]
  • A 0.41 m (16 in) Gregorian telescope was installed in 1963 and began operating the following year.[8] It was converted to a Cassegrain reflector in 1974.[9]
  • A 0.32 m (13 in) Schmidt camera was completed in 1979.[10] It was tested by Tombaugh in 1980 and 1981, but it was never reported as being operational.[11]
  • A 0.3 m (12 in) Newtonian/Cassegrain reflecting telescope built by J.W. Fecker, Inc. was installed in 1963.[8]
  • A 0.2 m (7.9 in) Cassegrain reflector built by Tinsley Laboratories was installed in 1967.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Reports of Observatories". Astronomical Journal. 67: 661. 1962. Bibcode:1962AJ.....67..608.. doi:10.1086/108792. 
  2. ^ Wagman, N. E. (1965). "Reports of observatories, 1964-65". Astronomical Journal. 70: 639. Bibcode:1965AJ.....70..581W. doi:10.1086/109786. 
  3. ^ a b c Heeschen, D. S. (1967). "Observatory Reports: National Radio Astronomy Observatory". Astronomical Journal. 72: 1122. Bibcode:1967AJ.....72.1118H. 
  4. ^ a b Klypin, A. (1999). "New Mexico State University, Department of Astronomy, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003. Report for the year 1998". Bulletin of the Astronomical Society. 31: 402. Bibcode:1999BAAS...31..402K. 
  5. ^ "Annual Reports of Astronomical Observatories and Departments: New Mexico State University, Department of Astronomy". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. 34: 334. 2002. Bibcode:2002BAAS...34..334. 
  6. ^ "NMSU / MSFC LCROSS Observations". New Mexico State University Department of Astronomy. Retrieved 2012-01-30. 
  7. ^ Sanchez, Lorena (2011-06-01). "NMSU News Center | NMSU M-TEC students instrumental in reviving Tortugas Mountain Observatory". Retrieved 2012-01-30. 
  8. ^ a b Mohler, D. C. (1964). "The Observatories of the University of Michigan report". Astronomical Journal. 69: 703. Bibcode:1964AJ.....69..689M. doi:10.1086/109346. 
  9. ^ Beebe, H. A. (1975). "New Mexico State University, Department of Astronomy, Las Cruces, New Mexico. Observatory report". Bulletin of the Astronomical Society. 7: 178. Bibcode:1975BAAS....7..178B. 
  10. ^ "Observatory Reports: New Mexico State University". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. 13: 345. 1981. Bibcode:1981BAAS...13..345. 
  11. ^ "Observatory Reports: New Mexico State University". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. 15: 471. 1983. Bibcode:1983BAAS...15..471. 

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