The Kitt Peak 4-Meter Telescope is a reflecting telescope, which means it collects and focuses light by means of a mirror 4-meters in diameter. This mirror was made back in the early 1970s, which means it’s a chunk of quartz that’s about 1-foot thick. It weighs 15 tons with a light coating of shiny aluminum on top to make it reflective. A few years ago, a system of air bags was installed underneath the mirror. These air bags can be inflated to different amounts. A lower amount allows the mirror to sag a little. A higher amount pushes on the mirror a little. The amount of push and sag allows the mirror’s shape to be optimized depending on where you’re pointed in the sky. Every now and then, this system has to be optimized. The telescope operator points to stars all around the sky and tweaks the pressures so that we get the very best image quality the telescope can deliver. That was my job during the last three nights of my most recent shift at Kitt Peak.
Now I’m back in Las Cruces and, as summer wanes, settling in to finish the summer issue of Tales of the Talisman. The issue is basically all assembled. I have all the components. Now it’s just a matter of correcting the last few spelling mistakes I’ve caught, adjusting the placement of the illustrations and making sure everything is just so. Like with the 4-meter, it’s a process of making tweaks. I’m hoping I’ll have the issue off to the printer early next week. After that, it’s back to work on my wild west steampunk novel Lightning Wolves for even more tweaks.