John W Briggs
Dear Dave and Group--
A potential advantage of Rt 60 over Rt 9 here in New Mexico is altitude. Near Magdalena we're around 6,500 feet, and it gets higher as one drives west. An effect of this is that we're typically almost ten degrees cooler than Socorro, about 30 miles east of us and 2,000 feet lower. Of course that means we have colder winters, too! I don't know Rt 9 well, but I suspect it's lower than Rt 60.
Ranch land around here is often sold in 40-acre parcels. When my family and I bought two of these about 17 years ago, land was about $1,000/acre or a bit less. It hasn't necessarily gone up too much since then, although often sellers ask two or three times more.
There's a lot of open land southwest of Magdalena off road 107. This area is west of the Magdalena mountains and the seeing should be pretty good. The lights of the Village there are very well blocked by local hills and mountains, as would also much of the modest Albuquerque light dome. The area I'm thinking of starts about seven miles outside of Magdalena. Two of our local club members already have homes and observatories out there.
At my place, FOAH Observatory, the Village is only about three miles south of me. But the direct lights are blocked by intervening hills. I still get a small sky glow from the Village -- obnoxiously to my precious south -- especially when there's blowing dust. But I chose my site to get a hilltop and the best chance for good seeing. Looking back on it, I would say that I was much more specifically concerned about seeing than some others I know who have chosen observatory developments. But one thing is sure true -- no site is perfect, and it's always a matter of compromise. So you just do the best you can in given circumstances. And there will always be some pros & cons!
I have several differential image motion monitors (DIMMs) all copied exactly after a system we developed at Apache Point Observatory and still used at some sites like McDonald. We can use these to quantify, for example, if siting on top of a hill actually makes a difference in the seeing.
Copy: Old poster paper about the DIMM seeing monitors.