Culture Series: Tracking Telescopes & the Forgotten Legacy of Clyde Tombaugh at White Sands Missile Range
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Bill Godby, an archaeologist at White Sands Missile Range, discusses the history and significance of astronomer Dr. Clyde Tombaugh's efforts at WSMR from 1946-1955, during the very beginnings of America's missile and space exploration activities. This free presentation includes many rare photographs, illustrating various evolutions of the tracking telescopes developed during Tombaugh's tenure. Godby's talk will also include a discussion of cultural resource management at WSMR and the role an archaeologist plays in managing historic resources. He is one of three archaeologists at WSMR, managing more than 8,000 historic sites.
The development of missile tracking telescopes begins with Dr. James B. Edson, former astronomer and staff member at Lowell Observatory in the late 1930s. Edson, also brother-in-law of Tombaugh, developed the prototype for the first missile tracking telescope, known as Little Bright Eyes, at the Ballistic Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in 1946. The telescope used two refractors mounted on a 45mm machine gun mount to provide 360 degree rotation and included a mounted 35mm Eyemo movie camera. Edson, brought the telescope to WSMR and handed it over to Tombaugh, who subsequently obtained the first-ever large-scale photography of missiles in flight. Tombaugh resolved many problems with atmospheric turbulence, magnification/angular field of view and film/filter problems by applying his skills as an astronomer. His work in the development of tracking telescopes was groundbreaking and led to a new paradigm of data collection still utilized today.
Godby completed a Master's Degree at the University of Hawaii in 1996. In 2000, he began working for the U.S. Army with efforts focused on documenting Native Hawaiian uses of the extensive lava tube systems found at the 109,000 acre Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island. In 2009, upon moving to New Mexico, Godby shifted his attention above ground to the tremendous Cold War Era resources found at WSMR. He has since been compiling historic documentation to complete National Register evaluations of launch complexes, instrumentation sites and other test areas developed in the 1950s and 60s.