New Painting Teaser

I know its been a while since I’ve updated the progress on the painting I’m currently working on so here it is:

I have been accused by some as “nancy-ing” it when it comes to this painting but that’s ok, you can’t rush greatness! There were some spots that took at while but I’m cooking now and it’ill be wrapped up shortly.

Super-sized Mushrooms

We finally had a couple of good rain storms but nowhere near where the annual rainfall totals should be.  When it does rain we usually get a few smallish mushrooms but nothing like these monsters that have sprouted up:

Super Shroom
Double Cap
Double Cap

I wonder if the Smurfs are setting up shop to begin their sequel.  I had better send Indy out to investigate…

Indiana Jones and the Mushroom of Doom!
Indiana Jones and the Mushroom of Doom!

Sunspot Rally 2011

On July 30th we joined a local El Paso Mini club, EPMINIS for a rally to the Sunspot National Observatory just outside of Cloudcroft NM.

View Larger Map

The rally started at 9:30 with everybody meeting at Starbucks off of I-54 for a quick drive to Alamogordo New Mexico.  In Alamogordo there was a a brief lunch break at Alameda park before we headed into the Lincoln National Forest towards Cloudcroft.

Alameda Park, Alamagordo NM
Alameda Park, Alamagordo NM

We were driving our Jeep and don’t have a Mini but we were given a nice “Honorary Mini” car-magnet to identify us as part of the rally.  The El Paso crew was joined by some New Mexico Mini-ers, so there was quite a turnout.

Lincoln Sign
Entrance to the forest

The drive to Cloudcroft is pretty quick with a nice change in elevation as you enter the forest.  The roads are curvy and the Minis were cruzing at a good clip on the way to Sunspot.  We wound up in the middle of the pack so I did my best to keep the Jeep in the mix and not slow anybody up.  The Jeep handles really good for a large SUV, supported by a new stiffer uni-body construction and airbag suspension. The 5.7 HEMI helped too:)

First stop was the National Solar Observatory (NSO).   Their mission statement from their website:

“The mission of the National Solar Observatory is to advance knowledge of the Sun, both as an astronomical object and as the dominant external influence on Earth, by providing forefront observational opportunities to the research community. The mission includes the operation of cutting edge facilities, the continued development of advanced instrumentation both in-house and through partnerships, conducting solar research, and educational and public outreach. “

It was a nice facility with plenty of parking and a visitors center.

NSO Visitors Center

After a brief explanation of the facilities purpose, which included an overview of the structure of the sun, we were given a tour of the grounds by a astronomy student who works there. The tallest on site was the Dunn Solar Telescope:

Dunn Solar Telescope
Dunn Solar Telescope

After viewing the inside and getting a overview of how the scope works, we exited and toured the rest of the site wrapping up at about 3:00 PM.  From the NSO we motored over to Apache Point Observatory (APO) where one of the EpMini club members, Garrett worked and was going to give us a tour. APO is a private facility partnered with the NSO and New Mexico State University.

Apache Point
Telescope row

Garrett’s job at APO was keeping the 2.5 meter telescope operational.  He explained the telescopes capabilities and showed us the work that goes into the fiber optic cartridges that are used to do spectral analysis on stars, planets and other space objects. Garrett gave us a lot of info and really showed some enthusiasm for his job.  I would imagine working here to be pretty chill, you get to look out into space seeing things that few people get to experience, coupled with the calm forest surroundings.

Fiber Optic Disk
Garrett’s disks (each hole gets a fiber cable plugged into it)

One of the best parts about the APO tour was the view from the Sacramento Mountains down into the valley. The Who’s “I can see for miles” sums it up best:

I can see for miles!
I can see for miles!

We were finished at APO at about 5:00 and it was time to head back home. I would like to thank the EPMINIS group for letting an ol’ Jeep tag along, it was good to get away from the heat in El Paso.  For more pictures of the NSO and APO sites see my Flickr set here: Sunspot Rally 2011