What the hell are these?
December 28, 2005 4:59 PM   Subscribe

What the hell are these?

I spent four hours surfing trying to discover exactly what these are. I've given up but maybe you have the answer.
posted by IndigoSkye to Grab Bag (33 answers total)
those are obviously observatories, with telescopes inside.
posted by delmoi at 5:01 PM on December 28, 2005

yeap, telescope. but I used to work for nrao and still can't recognize the specific installation or anything...
posted by dorian at 5:20 PM on December 28, 2005

they look a bit like observatory domes, but they don't make practical sense for a general purpose (scientific) telescope, as you are restricted in where you can point (as far as i can tell). so i would guess that they are either military or communications related. they also look very old fashioned - modern telescope domes look nothing like that - but appear to be situated on a remote/dry spot (as you'd expert for an observatory).

i've not seen them in the observatories i've visited/used.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:21 PM on December 28, 2005

There's no real indication of scale, what if they were just fancy duct vents?
posted by pantsrobot at 5:28 PM on December 28, 2005

That doesn't look like any observatory dome I've seen. It also doesn't seem to work like any observatory dome I've seen. It looks like it would only provide a view more or less straight up. Most observatory domes have a ~90 degree opening off vertical and can be rotated over a fairly wide range. The structures also don't see to allow much room for operators or optical equipment.

I think a death ray pops out the top.
posted by Good Brain at 5:30 PM on December 28, 2005

dnno, the pic is definitely low-res but the scale of the horizon still seems fairly obvious. and as andrew cooke said, looks to be a remote, dry area.

plus you can see a catwalk in the top of the dome that's open.

(on preview: it doesn't necessarily have to be an optical telescope...but may require an optical part for spotting...)
posted by dorian at 5:33 PM on December 28, 2005

you can see a door in the base (left) of the front dome, i assume. that makes the scale about what you'd expect for a 2m class telescope.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:33 PM on December 28, 2005

I'm going to guess that they are 1950's era satellite tracking stations in the Australian outback. The opening looks like it is designed to allow 180+ degrees (er, steradians, but I don't think in those) of swing across a fairly fixed plane. So, tracking something that moves horizon to horizon, but isn't far enough away to move in the sky relative to earth. And the shadows look like the sun is high overhead, so not too far north or south. The construction looks like aluminum sheet over tubing, bucky-style, but the relatively "agricultural" execution says early years of the design. And the cement pedestal has lingering flavors of deco modernism, which nobody was doing much past the 50's.
posted by Triode at 5:33 PM on December 28, 2005

or a bit smaller.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:35 PM on December 28, 2005

note that they probably can rotate, so it's not necesarily a fixed plane, but more a kind of cone (for the more distant one).
posted by andrew cooke at 5:36 PM on December 28, 2005

actually looking at the second pic a little down the page, now I'm more inclined to judge it part of the set of a bad movie, e.g. one of the quatermass films heh. but that could just be the antiquated design aspect that triode pretty much nailed.
posted by dorian at 5:38 PM on December 28, 2005

could be russian.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:41 PM on December 28, 2005

It's gotta be a movie set just like dorian says. think of a movie made in the 50's.....
posted by snowjoe at 5:41 PM on December 28, 2005

What was that 50s or 60s movie that had that horrible death ray thingie? It was something about Argonauts or something about Atlantis, maybe? This looks like that. It's very intimidating.
posted by iconomy at 5:43 PM on December 28, 2005

Third the movie suggestion. An observatory wouldn't need a reflective enclosure
posted by pantsrobot at 5:44 PM on December 28, 2005

ok: movie or not, it's probably a radome (i.e. radar dome) and not a telescope (altho radar of that sort and radio telescope are fairly similar in function)

and going back to what triode said, who can explain 'design' from the 50s?! shiney aluminium? sure! cool! future-tastic! and if it's somewhere damned-hot, I guess reflective surface makes as much sense as white paint?

if you win I want 1/40 of that messenger bag ha.
posted by dorian at 5:53 PM on December 28, 2005

dammit now I am obsessed with the damn things. damn your scaly hide.

it may be just the crappy lighting or the crappy resolution or the crappy lens distortion, but the object in the second pic is much, much different than those in the first one. the first pic feels realistic, it's the second one that has all the bad-movie vibe (possibly due to the mentioned crap-factors) -- if nothing else the dome is the same but the dimensions and construction of the base is not the same; and the first is on a concrete pad while the second seems not to be...?
posted by dorian at 6:06 PM on December 28, 2005

I can tell you what its not and that is a film set.

A film set would have been accomplished with a model, even if a large one of 10 or 20 foot height. No SciFi set of the fifties was ever built at this scale.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:25 PM on December 28, 2005

I found it. I'm going to email the link to IndigoSkye before I post it.
posted by iconomy at 6:27 PM on December 28, 2005

...in case he's trying to win the messenger bag, that is.
posted by iconomy at 6:31 PM on December 28, 2005

There is an observatory near me that uses a spinning mercury pool as a mirror. It can only look straight up, but the reflector is very large. Maybe these are similar?
posted by Crosius at 6:32 PM on December 28, 2005

damn. so was it a movie after all?

'cos I looked thru like 30 pages of radomes on google image search and got nothin'. and then gave up ^_^
posted by dorian at 6:34 PM on December 28, 2005

aaaaah iconomy what is it?
posted by pantsrobot at 6:43 PM on December 28, 2005

Best answer: I emailed the guy who was asking the question, and if I'm the first to get it right IndigoSkye can have the messenger bag.

Sorry to keep you in suspense ;) I googled "space dome" and it was on the second page.
posted by iconomy at 6:47 PM on December 28, 2005

Well, just to save anyone else the leg work, I checked every greyscale google image for the words "observatory" "dome" "radome" and "distant early warning" (amongst others) without any success.
posted by furtive at 6:50 PM on December 28, 2005

shit, good work! the sad thing is, I think I actually knew about that site.
posted by dorian at 6:53 PM on December 28, 2005

I want partial credit!
posted by Triode at 7:22 PM on December 28, 2005

*gives Triode partial credit, and then realizes his share of the credit is a little too large, and grabs a hunk of it back and gives it to andrew cooke for his 'russian' comment*
posted by iconomy at 7:26 PM on December 28, 2005

So the goofy exterior is just decoration? That's what I figured.
posted by delmoi at 10:09 PM on December 28, 2005

damn. back online after an overnight bus ride and this is solved. ah well. good one, iconomy.

(optical telecsope domes can be shiny - the idea is that white or shiny keeps them from heating up. radar domes typically are white because they're not metallic (and so don't need to open)).
posted by andrew cooke at 6:19 AM on December 29, 2005

Um. Robyn (the person who originally posted the images and asked what they were) didn't respond to my email, and is giving the messenger bag to 'winner' on her (?) site, even though 'winner' saw my comment here linking to the answer and then posted it there, 15 minutes later.
posted by iconomy at 12:04 PM on December 29, 2005

Thanks for mentioning me over there, andrew cooke! I don't care about 'winning', but I think I found the answer first and would have liked to give the bag to IndigoSkye for bringing it up here, because it was really fun trying to find out what the heck those things were. I still think they're really intimidating. But anyway...no big deal. IndigoSkye never even bothered to post here again, so I guess he doesn't really care either.

By the way, I'm pretty sure that 'winner's' email addresses are bogus over there, so Robyn's going to have a tough time contacting him/her ;)
posted by iconomy at 12:50 PM on December 29, 2005

hey, i want my hunk....
posted by andrew cooke at 1:42 PM on December 29, 2005

« Older Can you use mail() in PHP without creating an...   |   Please educate me about cold sores Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.