East Dome Scheduling
About Our Obligations with the George Observatory
The Fort Bend Astronomy Club owns and operates an 18" fork mounted Newtonian telescope housed in a 16' dome at the George Observatory located in Brazos Bend State Park. In agreement with The Houston Museum of Natural Science, we are obligated to provide telescope operators for public and special viewing nights. In return, club members are allowed access to the facility on all nights.
About Our Telescope and the East Dome
The telescope is an 18" f/4.5 Newtonian on an equatorial fork mount. It is driven by a Sidereal Technology telescope controller and has "Go-To" capability. Included in the dome are star charts, eyepieces, a computer with charting programs, and a SBIG ST-7 CCD camera. The telescope and cameras are available to any club member who has been trained in the safe and responsible use of the equipment and who volunteers at least once per quarter in a club related activity.
We offer scheduled training nights for all FBAC members, as well as individual training for members by special request. The East Dome and telescope operation is quite simple, but training is required for your safety and the responsible use of club owned equipment.
Please review the following guidelines concerning East Dome training:
- You must attend one of the training dates listed below to become a qualified East Dome Telescope operator (ED TO).
- You are free to attend more than one training session if you wish, but only one session should be needed.
- The East Dome trainers have have planned each training session to last for a maximum of three (3) hours. The training time will be adjusted as necessary. Some trainees will require a little more time to become familiar with some of the finer points of the East Dome telescope. Trainees are encouraged to first volunteer as an East Dome door person on a public viewing night (usually on Saturday night), which can give a trainee preliminary knowledge of East Dome operating procedures. Please check the George Observatory Calendar and contact a building manager to volunteer as an East Dome door person.
- After the trainee has been fully trained on the ED scope, he or she will likely be partnered with a veteran ED TO (East Dome Telescope Operator) for a single night session to be sure that the trainee has the necessary confidence in being able to operate the ED telescope on their own. Trainee may receive feedback from the veteran ED TO to improve the trainee's ability to handle the ED scope on their own.
- All new, officially trained TOs will then receive a certificate that classifies them as an ED TO.
- If any FBAC member wishes to attend an advanced ED training session, especially if they wish to become familiar with FBAC Asteroid Search Team (A-Team) activities, please send an email to the club's Astrolist so arrangements can be made with an FBAC A-Team member.
2015 ED TO Training Dates (Held on Saturdays):
Currently on an as-needed basis when requests are made.
FBAC Members Contact us on the club's Astrolist for further information.
Volunteering on Public and Special Observatory Nights
Any member who volunteers on a public or special night is automatically entitled to use the scope for the remainder of the night. Where more than one member volunteers on those nights, we expect those persons to share the scope for the remainder of the night.
First time member volunteers are paired with an experienced operator until such time as the volunteer feels comfortable using the telescope and facility. Until you are comfortable with the surroundings, we recommend observing with one of the trained individuals or groups instead of going solo. Safety always comes first!
On a typical Saturday night we are in contact with 200 or more people of all ages and astronomical experience. This gives our club a unique opportunity to entertain a vast number of people, while also educating them about what we do.
It is important for all club members to make an effort to volunteer at least once per quarter on the telescope.
Security of the George Observatory
After safety, security is the next important aspect of using the facilities at the observatory. The George Observatory Building Managers are responsible for securing the building and domes before they leave on special viewing nights and on Saturday nights. This includes all domes, all doors of the facility, the dob shed and the golf cart shed. If you are observing in the East Dome after the public leaves, the building manager team will let you know they are leaving and will confirm with you that you are familiar with how to secure the dome and the premises. If you unlock a door to the main facility, you must be sure to lock the door before you leave. Check all other doors and leave the East Dome in its proper "shutdown" condition. There are lists inside the dome to assist you with this.
Scheduling a Night on Our Telescope
For FBAC members to schedule a night at the FBAC East Dome, please send an e-mail to the FBAC Astrolist.
Please check the East Dome Calendar for currently available dates.
The East Dome is scheduled by Justin McCollum with assistance from Tracy Knauss and David Haviland. All three are available by email through the Astrolist.
The George Observatory Event Calendar
See the George calendar for the current schedule of private group viewings at the George Observatory. These are groups scheduled on nights other than Saturdays. The cost for these groups is $10.00 per person. (See GeorgeObservatory.org)
Note: Click on the link in the calendar to see information about the group.
The George Observatory Clear Sky Clock
The George Observatory Clear Sky Clock can be viewed here: CLEAR SKY CLOCK
Other General Information
The dark-moon scheduled period runs from a few days prior to Third Quarter moon until a few days prior to First Quarter moon. Scheduling for this period does not include Saturdays. Saturdays are always scheduled as public viewing nights. Special nights at the George include all other nights of the week and may coincide with individual or team use nights. Friday and Saturday nights are scheduled as needed by Justin McCollum, if there is no one already scheduled for the dome, such as members of one of FBAC's research teams. During the bright moon period, the scope is seldom used except on public and special nights. Those nights can be used as available after the public event, so please check the East Dome Calendar to see available dates.
HEAT (High Energy Astronomy and Transits) nights are scheduled by Bill Dillon to allow observers to practice setting up the cameras and equipment for the purpose of observing gamma ray burst afterglows, variable stars or any other phenomena that require a "quick response". These sessions are open for all club members and are a good way to start learning how to set up and use the CCD camera and/or the telescope. Contact using the FBAC Astrolist for further information.Astrolist
It is also recommended that you call the Observatory for the gate code before driving out for your scheduled night. The number at the observatory is 281-242-3055. If you get stuck in the park without the gate code, find the camp-host in the camping area. They will be happy to give you the code, provided you identify yourself and explain that you have been working at the observatory.
If you reserve a date, and find you cannot make that date, then please make an effort to switch with another member or contact us over the FBAC Astrolist so the telescope may be offered to fellow prospective users.