RCA Maupin Star Party
This time I did something a little different. Normally I try to get a decent nights sleep on Thursday, get up Friday, finish the packing and head out. But this time, I was all packed on Thursday with nothing to do except sleep and wait for Friday morning to come to leave. So I decided to leave Thursday evening instead. Sure I'd arrive at the location after dark, but there will be darkness left and I'll already be there on Friday to start setting up everything.
So, I drove out there on Thursday evening. It was dark, but being the first to pull up to the site, no one was there for me to blind as I pulled in. I left the imaging gear in the RV, and broke out the Big Dob and the tracking platform and called it good. I didn't even bother to set up a table for the eyepieces, knowing the night was extremely short and I wanted to get observing as soon as possible. The sky was great and I enjoyed 90 minutes of unexpected observing time. What a treat! I'll have to see how often leaving on Thursday evening can work out.
Friday started off nice during the day, but it got progressively cloudier and hazier as the day went on. By nightfall, it was mostly clear, but there was a high haze. By midnight or earlier that high haze turned into a thick layer that ruined all imaging for sure and inhibited visual observing.
Saturday was worse. Much worse. Clouds all day. 10 mph winds with higher bursts. I set up the wind blocker and it cut about 90% of the wind down.
The clouds persisted into the evening and we observed through sucker holes. Sucker hole observing, although not ideal, is kindof fun. You really have to know the sky to find objects. It just so happened that I started the SAA 100 list this weekend and logged nearly 30 objects through the sucker holes. That actually made it quite fun and interesting. Around 2am or so, the sky cleared, no haze, seeing dramatically improved and I was able to get the last 10 objects (and really soak on them) until the sun came up. For being a lousy evening, it turned out great and was actually fun the entire time.
At some point, someone mentioned that Sunday was Father's Day. I really don't pay attention to holidays. Not because I don't like them or celebrate them, but because I have alot on my mind and they kind of sneak up on me. I spoke to my wife about coming home and spending the rest of the time with the family, and she mentioned that since I was out there and I love it so much, it would be a good Father's Day gift if I just stayed another night.
One other member thought they'd also stay until they saw the forecast. Partly cloudy and windy up to 40 mph! Wow...
Needless to say when I woke up on Sunday (around noon) everyone was gone including the gentleman who was going to stay! once again, I'm alone at a star party... <sigh>
The wind was howling like mad. I meant to take down the wind blocker so it didn't go sailing off into the distance... but I forgot. Even though it's pretty sturdy these days, the ridiculously strong winds blew it apart again, but this time it was too close to my imaging gear and when I went outside, not only was the blocker blown to its, but one of the imaging systems was knocked over and all askew. It doesn't look like anything is broken, but I haven't tested it yet either. Bummers man. Lesson learned.
It's now probably around 3:00 and not only the wind is blowing like crazy, but the clouds are getting darker. I do a forecast check and it's suppose to be completely cloudy all night, and raining by 3am. Ugh. So much for having a blessed Father's Day!
The Move To Indian Trail Spring
Just then, Scott calls me. He's about 5 hours south of me and his forecast isn't looking much better. We discuss meeting at Indian Trail Spring where the forecast is clear all night and little to no wind. He's about 3 hours south west of it and I'm about 3 hours northwest of it. It's a no brainer... lets meet at ITS!
It was so great driving away from the clouds instead of towards them! The trip there was a great drive until the tree in the road at FS800 less then a mile from ITS. Luckily it was a small tree about 10 to 12 inches in diameter and I had a hatchet - which I don't normally have with me, it just happened to be left over from a camping trip last year - because Scott didn't bring his saw that he normally brings. Whew! A quick 15 minutes and the tree is taken care of and we can progress to our destination.
We arrive at ITS, the sky is clear, there is a slight breeze and we begin setting up. I decide to bail on imaging tonight as I really wanted to focus on visual work so I only set up the Dob on the platform, a single table, laptop and battery for star charts, observing chair, binoculars and parallelogram tripod and eyepiece case. It was kind of refreshing actually. it takes hours to set everything up to use all of the stuff I bring and simplifying sure felt good!
We observed from dusk til dawn in beautiful skies. It was a bit chilly and the wind came up now and again, but never so hard we couldn't observe. Just enough to make you put on another layer of clothing! Seeing was better then good, but not excellent, but it sure beat another night of clouds. I literally loved every minute of it.
So, even though we had our ups and downs this weekend, it started great on Thursday and ended really on Monday.
I did manage to get *some* data through the haze and it was (kindof) enough to improve my Cave Nebula shot.
Scope: Vixen ED103S with WO Flat 4 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Orion Atlas EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800 RGB / ISO 1600 Ha
Exposure: 5 hours 30 minutes (66 x 300s) of OSC RGB and 3 hours 20 minutes (10 x 1200s) of Ha
Processing: Acquired in Nebulosity with High Dither, Calibration and Stacking in Deep Sky Stacker as well as Ha/RGB alignment, levels and curves and such in Photoshop CS5
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, 12 darks