Central Arkansas’ astronomers are hoping that a compromise is in the works regarding the new Cantrell Field airport beacon.
The Central Arkansas Astronomical Society (CAAS) operates the River Ridge Observatory on West South Ridge Road in Perry County. It’s a long drive to get to the observatory from Conway, but as the crow flies it’s just a few miles south of the airport being built in the Lollie Bottoms.
There has been concern that light from the rotating airport beacon would interfere with data collection and observation by the observatory’s telescopes, which include two robotic telescopes operated remotely via internet connection. CAAS is raising money to install a third research-grade remote telescope at the site.
On Thursday CAAS members met with city officials, and it was decided that the airport beacon’s beam, which is fairly narrowly focused, would be tilted up from the standard 5 degrees above horizon to around 7 degrees.
CAAS member and Little Rock attorney Bruce McMath said that he hoped the meeting with city and airport planning officials is the start of "a course that hopefully will lead to a solution that everyone can live with … either through elevation of the beam or [through] shielding."
"CAAS members left with the feeling that there is a willingness to work with us in good faith," McMath said.
Jack Bell, city chief of staff, said that when the beacon is installed and set at a 7-degree angle CAAS and the city will start working to fine-tune the setup. FAA standards allow airport beacons to be angled as high as 10 degrees above horizon, as measured by the center of the light beam.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)