Jun 252012
 

From news release:

Magdalena, NM. July 3, 2012 – Cibola National Forest and Grasslands Forest Supervisor Nancy Rose announced that the Magdalena Ranger District’s Magdalena Mountain area will begin Stage II fire restrictions effective Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. The Gallinas and Bear Mountain areas will stay in Stage I. The San Mateo and Datil Mountain areas have been in Stage II fire restrictions since June 22, 2012.

In addition, Forest Road 235 has reopened. It was closed during the Sawmill fire, which is now 90 percent contained.

07.02.2012

From news release:

Detected 6/23/2012 and located approximately 3 miles southeast of Magdalena Ridge Observatory/Langmuir Lab and approximately 13 miles south of Magdalena, New Mexico. The fire is currently 104 acres located in extremely steep and rugged terrain with minimal fire behavior – smoldering in mixed conifer and through rock screes. Containment is at 88%. No structures are threatened. Forest Road 235 is closed to the Magdalena Ridge Observatory/Langmuir Lab is closed to the public but is open to Fire and MRO/LL personnel only.

06.29.2012

From news release:

Detected 6/23/2012 and located approximately 3 miles southeast of Magdalena Ridge Observatory/Langmuir Lab and approximately 13 miles south of Magdalena, New Mexico. The fire is located in extremely steep and rugged terrain burning in mixed conifer and through rock screes.

Current Size: 104 acres
Containment:  81%

Firefighters have been able to prep and hold the fire line at the Ryan Hill/Sawmill Canyon Divide. Rock slides and scree slopes have helped to keep the fire from spreading to the north and south along the fire perimeter. The fire keeps rolling and backing down into Sawmill Canyon. Structure protection and a structure protection plan were provided to Magdalena Ridge Observatory and Langmuir Labs.

06.28.2012

A news release from the Magdalena Ranger District today reports that the Sawmill Fire burning near Magdalena Ridge Observatory/Langmuir Laboratory is now burning at 104 acres with 81% containment.

With the successful suppression actions that have occur over the past couple of days, several resources (some of the crews, water tenders, and helicopters) have been released.  The remaining resources will continue to work at the Langmuir Lab and Magdalena Ridge Observatory to finish structure protection and be ready for the possibility of initial attack.  The structure protection activities will help in case of future fires in the area.  At the end of today’s shift, management of this fire will be turned back over to the local district unless conditions determine otherwise.  The remaining helicopters will be available for recon flights, possible water drops if needed, or for initial attack if any new starts occur.

06.27.2012

A news release from the Magdalena Ranger District today reports that the Sawmill Fire burning near Magdalena Ridge Observatory/Langmuir Laboratory is now burning at 104 acres with 69% containment.

Firefighters were successful yesterday to continue to improve fire line along the upper and lower portions of the fire.  The plan is for the firefighters is to continue to improve fire line and mop up and then begin to leave the fire line by early afternoon due to the threat of lightning this afternoon.  Crews continue to work with 3 – Type 1 helicopters, working out of the Socorro Airport to slow and / or stop the spread of the fire in areas where it is hazardous to put fire fighters.  Continued structure protection is being implemented for the Langmuir Lab and Magdalena Ridge Observatory, atop the Magdalena Mountains.  If actions on the fire go as planned, some crews and aircraft could start to demobilize from the fire by this evening or by tomorrow.

06.26.2012

An updated news release from the Magdalena Ranger District reports that the Sawmill Fire burning near Magdalana Ridge Observatory/Langmuir Laboratory is burning at 101 acres (more accurate mapping was done overnight) and is 0% contained.

Firefighters will continue to hold fire line along the ridge that separates Sawmill and Ryan Hill Canyons.  One crew will be flown into the bottom of Sawmill Canyon to hike up to the fire to construct direct fire line and mop up if conditions allow.  Crews continue to work with 3 – Type 1 helicopter, working out of the Socorro Airport to slow and / or stop the spread of the fire in areas where it is hazardous to put fire fighters.  Continued structure protection is being implemented for the Langmuir Lab and Magdalena Ridge Observatory, atop the Magdalena Mountains.

06.25.2012

According to the news release from the Magdalena Ranger District the Sawmill Fire burning 3 miles from the observatory is still burning and now is an estimated 135 acres in size with 0% containment.

Firefighters will continue to build and improve fire line along the ridge that separates Sawmill and Ryan Hill Canyons.  Crews are looking for opportunities to check the fire spread on the south and west flanks in conjunction with air resources.  Multiple air resources continue to utilize retardant and water drops to slow and / or stop the spread of the fire.  Additionally, structure protection is being implemented to the Langmuir Lab and Magdalena Ridge Observatory, atop Magdalena Ridge.

Also note due to the Sawmill Fire on the Magdalena Ranger District, Forest Road 235 from the Water Canyon Campground to Langmuir Observatory has been temporarily closed. More here.

More on the news release from Magdalena Ranger District here.

Jun 122012
 

MRO Interferometer Project Scientist Dr. Michelle Creech-Eakman will be giving a talk at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science as part of the Centennial Lecture Series. The talk titled “Alien Sunsets, Spotted Stars, and NESSI in New Mexico” will be about MRO’s NESSI instrument – the New Mexico Tech Extrasolar Spectroscopic Survey Instrument, a multi-object NIR spectrometer to be used at the Magdalena Ridge Observatory 2.4-meter telescope. She will also talk about the new and exciting science that will be done with the NESSI instrument.

For a full abstract and details about attending the lectures please visit the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Calendar of Events page.

May 242012
 

When Venus passes directly between earth and the sun, we see the distant planet as a small dot gliding slowly across the face of the sun.  Historically, this rare alignment is how we measured the size of our solar system. The next transit of Venus occurs June 5 or 6, 2012, depending on your location.  Observers in North America see it the evening of June 5. This will be the last transit of Venus to occur in your lifetime.

A transit of Venus occurs when Venus passes directly between the sun and earth.  This alignment is rare, coming in pairs that are eight years apart but separated by over a century.  The most recent transit of Venus was a thrilling sight in 2004.  After the June 2012 transit of Venus (the last one in your lifetime), the next such alignment occurs in 2117.

From transitofvenus.org

Everyone is welcome to join the Etscorn Observatory on the campus for free, safe, telescope viewing of the transit of Venus on Tuesday, June 5, beginning at 4 p.m. until sunset. No reservations required. Feel free to bring lawn chairs, a picnic dinner, water, sunscreen, and your sense of wonder!

The event is co-hosted by the Magdalena Ridge Observatory, the Etscorn Observatory and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Students, staff and professors will be viewing Venus as it transits the Sun and using Etscorn Observatory telescopes and other instruments. All are welcome to join.

To get to Etscorn Observatory, take Olive Lane (main road on campus) toCanyon Road. Turn on Canyon Road heading west toward the golf course. Make a right on Buck Wolfe Drive (first stop sign; just after the golf course) and veer left at the fork in the road. A map of directions is available here. Note: There are signs posted starting on the intersection of Olive Lane and Canyon Road.

May 152012
 

Annular solar eclipse on October 3, 2005. Image courtesy of Sancho Panza via Flickr.

Updated May 17, 2012

On Sunday, May 20, 2012 an annular eclipse of the sun will be visible from a narrow corridor that will traverse the Earth’s northern Hemisphere. The path of the Moon’s antumbral shadow will begin in eastern Asia and will cross the North Pacific Ocean where it will end in west Texas. Most of the state of New Mexico lies in the path of the eclipse providing a rare opportunity for the astronomy community, enthusiasts and non-entusiasts to witness an amazing event.

Path of the annular eclipse across the western United States

Here we list some of the best places in central New Mexico to view the eclipse from. Some include public gatherings while others are just remote areas where you can take your friends and family to experience this rare and beatiful event.

Also check out some of the listed references at the bottom page about the eclipse.

The event will occur on Sunday May 20th, starting at 6:20pm (MDT) and totaling at 7:34pm  (MDT) which will last for about 4 minutes.

Note that the event occurs close to sunset (8:06pm MDT) and when choosing a location make sure you have a clear view of the western horizon; for Socorro residents that means get out of M Mountain’s way!  Be sure to wear proper eye protection when viewing the eclipse.

Socorro/Magdalena Area

Albuquerque Area

Other Annular Eclipse Websites

May 142012
 

When it comes to looking at the sun, eclipsed or not, it can be dangerous to look at it directly. NEVER look at the sun directly, even with sunglasses. You can potentially damage your eyes, which could lead to temporary or permanent blindness. However there are plenty of ways to look at the sun at any given time, or during an eclipse event, such as the annular eclipse coming up on May 20, 2012. Here are a few and cost effective (and even fun) ways you can view the eclipse:

Purchase Filters

Solar/Eclipse Glasses: you can purchase these little glasses from many online store (Amazon.com, Buy.com, OPT Corp just to name a few). Prices range from $3 to $15.

Telescope Solar/H-alpha filters: If you own a small telescope, it is likely there is a solar/H-alpha filter that can be fitted for your scope. It is a nice way to view the eclipse. And if you are into astro-photography you could even take a few snapshots or videos of the eclipse (see example here). Solar filters for scopes can really range in price, so this method would probably be the most costly.

Binoculars: If using binoculars, make sure to use a proper solar filter just as you would for a telescope. Many online stores will carry such filters as well. Or wear your solar/eclipse glasses and then use the binoculars over them.

Note: any kind of filter that you use (glasses, H-alpha, etc), unless pointing at the sun, you will not be able to see anything through it. If you can see something other than the sun, they it is probably not safe for solar viewing!

Do It Yourself

Pinhole Projectors:  There are many ways to project the sun’s image via a pinhole, but the basic idea is to take 2 white pieces of stiff paper/cardboard. Using a pin, puncture a whole in one of the papers. Place the pinhole paper in the path of the sun and hold the other paper behind it to project the sun onto it. Adjust the distance between the papers until projected image is to a satisfactory size/focus. What you see on the projected paper is the actual image of the sun and not just a dot of light coming through it!

Variations of pinhole projectors: one can get very creative with pinhole projectors. Here are a few resources to give you some ideas:

SAFETY

  • NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN! Looking directly at the sun can damage your eyes and/or lead to blindness. Using sunglasses or other filters not specifically designed for viewing the sun is NOT ENOUGH.
  • USE the solar glasses to look at the sun.
  • DO NOT view the sun through unfiltered binoculars or telescopes.
  • Please watch your children very carefully. Educate them about safe solar viewing.
  • For more information check out the NASA Eye Safety webpage