You leave Bend heading east on Highway 20, skirting the south side of Pilot Butte. The Pilot Butte Drive-In has great chow. Did you remember to bring your warm clothing, drinking water and a small flashlight covered with red paper? Make sure you have enough gasoline to make the roundtrip back to Bend as there is no fuel out here! Your trip to the Observatory will take about an hour.
The high desert is fairly flat and open, there is a hill at mile post 19.
You will drive 26 miles east from Bend on Highway 20 to Millican.
The small town of Millican is now deserted and offers no services.
Just past Millican, take a right on the dirt road, south.
You pass through three cattleguards across the flats of the prairie.
Soon you begin the ascent of the Pine Mountain Range, up the canyon. You will travel 8 miles from Millican to the top of Pine Mountain. The road is bumpy and dusty, but very scenic, so take your time.
Here is the Observatory's parking lot. If you come up at night, please dim your headlights, as the sign indicates.
The Forest Service campground is right across from the parking lot. Please remember to bring water with you. This is a "primitive" campground, with only an outhouse provided. During times of high fire danger, please do NOT light any open fires! There is no fee nor reservations, first come, first served.
Check out the display at the kiosk. We have photos and information about current astronomical events.
Walk on up the path to the Observatory, follow the red lights at night. The trailer west of the kiosk is where the Property Caretaker lives. The building south of the path is the dormitory where the astronomers and tour-guides stay.
Here is the dome that houses the 15" telescope. All three telescopes are housed in domes to protect them from the weather.
There is a new large deck adjacent to this building. You can relax on the deck while you are waiting your turn to view through the telescope.
The 15" telescope is so named because its main mirror, the device that is used to collect the faint light from objects far off in space, is 15 inches in diameter. This telescope is over 80 years old. It was first used atop Skinners' Butte in Eugene, by University of Oregon astronomers and students 50 years ago.
Then the telescope was moved to a nearby mountaintop in Central Oregon, and finally, moved to Pine Mountain in 1969 as the first telescope here.
If you follow the red lights and walk up the two short flights of stairs, you arrive at the "upper level" of the Observatory, where you will find the 24" and 32" telescopes plus a pair of giant binoculars.
Standing by the benches, you look east toward the 32" dome, and you see the pillar that holds the binoculars.
A trail leads to the very top of Pine Mountain, starting from the open area just east of the 24" dome.
From the trail you can view the entire Cascade Mountain Range to the west, including Bachelor, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, Mount Washington, Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Hood.
At the very top of Pine Mountain, at around 6400 feet elevation, there is a lean-to built several years ago by some Scouts. The telescopes were located just below the summit to avoid the heavy winds.
You can see all three domes from here, 32", 15", and 24", left to right.
Back down at the 24", you climb the spiral staircase to the top floor where the telescope is located.
This telescope, a classic Boller and Chivens, is about 25 years old, and has a 24" mirror. The telescope
not only has a motor drive that balances the Earth's rotation, to allow for tracking of celestial objects over time but also has motors to turn the dome, raise and lower the dome shutter, and move the telescope in both axes. Note the dials on the apron of the telescope that indicate the sidereal (star based) coordinates of where the telescope points. This telescope will eventually be computer controlled and have a CCD Camera attached.
This is the dome of the 32" telescope, the largest telescope at Pine Mountain Observatory. This telescope was also the most recent arrival, in 1972, and was built by Sigma Research, in the state of Washington. The unit PMO received was a prototype model, designed for photometric work, with a crude computerized control system
Entering the building, the telescope looms overhead, mounted in a "double-fork-arm" equatorial style.
The large blue plate is parallel to the Earth's equator, making tracking of celestial objects easy by just rotating the telescope around its "polar axis", which is a line perpendicular (vertical) to the equatorial plane. The large wooden building is the "warm room", an insulated building that houses the computers that operate the telescope, its CCD Camera, and the INTERNET connection.
Four computers control the operation, from left to right we have the INTERNET machine, the CCD control computer, the telescope control computer, and the local area network server/display computer. The ultimate goal for this telescope is to offer remote control operation to students, teachers, and amateur astronomers around the globe, where digitized images can be taken and downloaded via INTERNET on a real-time basis. On-site visitors will also be able to take images and "take their galaxy home" on disc. The present control system was designed and installed by Friends of Pine Mountain Observatory and by Professor Bothun. We have completely redone the original control system, since the current mission of the telescope requires precise pointing and tracking, and exact focus.
Looking into the tube of this telescope from the top end, the electronic Charge-Coupled-Device (CCD) camera (black cylinder) is mounted at the "prime focus" at the top end, pointed down toward the mirror at the bottom of the tube. The large 32" mirror gathers incoming light and focusses the image directly onto the CCD chip within the camera. The chip, a mosaic of electronic light sensors, tells the computer how the image varies in terms of light and dark areas, thus enabling an equivalent pixelized image to be displayed on a computer monitor in the control room or anywhere else from where the digitized image is accessible.
Last updated 7
June 1999. by Membio
Not to be re-published in any form without permission. Photos by Rick Kang.