A TRIP TO THE VATICAN OBSERVATORY
In July, 1998, I was priviledged to have the opportunity to work at the
Vatican Observatory, in the beautiful town of Gandolfo, Italy.
On the way there I had a stop in Brussels and met an amateur solar
astronomer, Franky Dubois, that I had communicated with via email
for several years. We had a delightful 2 hour lunch meeting and
discussed many issues and items of common interest concerning
solar observing and the ALPO.
The town of Gandolfo is nestled on the banks of Lake Albano and summer home of the Popes for some centuries, is the embodiment of old world charm.
This trip was an effort to observe a predicted occultation of a 14.7 mag.
star by the planet Pluto using the 60-cm Cassegrain telescope at the
Vatican Observatory. The captions and photos tell the story.
Lake Albano, a spring fed volcanic crater lake. The center of
the caldera is the peak on the horizon.
An aerial view of "Castello", the Papal summer palace, and Gandolfo
in the background perched in the rim of the ancient volcanic crater.
A back view of "Castello" showing the 40cm refractor dome (right)
and the 60-cm reflector dome (left) and Lake Albano in the background.
The 60-cm telescope of the Vatican Observatory, built by Zeiss
in the 1950s. All orange structures are associated with the observing
platform that hoists the observer to the back of the telescope. The
Cassegrain is mounted with a large astrograph (foreground).
The High Speed Occultation Camera System of the Planetary
Occultations Group at Lunar & Planetary Lab. (red) mounted on the
back end of the 60-cm Cassegrain telescope.
Another view of the camera system on the Cassegrain showing
both telescope and astrograph. Note the wooden dome construction.
An exterior view of the 60-cm telescope dome with Brother Guy
Consolmagno, our genial host and collaborator for this event, in the
foreground. We discovered on this trip that Guy and I (and my wife) came
from the same home town in Michigan
Sunset on the night of our observations. For being so close to
a major city (Rome is only 20 km to the north) the skies were pretty
good when clear!