Greetings from the Sandhills. Here is the update for Sunday night/Monday morning
After some pretty decent viewing the previous night we were hoping for a much better night. It was partly cloudy, extremely windy and temps into the lower 100’s (it was a dry heat) for most of the day. The clouds seemed to be getting thicker the closer we got to dark, but about 1030pm the clouds seemed to just disappear for most of the sky. There was some thicker stuff to the west with a few flashes of lightning but it was staying away. We did have another Aurora display around midnight again but it was not as spectacular as the previous night. There were a few columns of light that extended upward about 30 degrees. There was the dull glow of the Aurora right along the horizon for the entire night so it made some of the dimmer northern objects a bit more difficult to see. We ended moving down into a valley to try and block some of the wind which helped keep the scopes a bit more stable. I was working on my Caldwell list, so I was looking at a few dim galaxies, open clusters and planetary nebula. One of the objects on the list was an outer halo globular in the milky way. It was listed at about 135,000 light years from earth. It was pretty faint to see. I was also bouncing around some of the Messier objects that I have seen before but in my 8 inch. The Dumbell Nebula looked absolutely fantastic! In my 15mm expanse eyepiece it filled almost the whole field of view. The view of the Milky Way seemed to be a bit better than the first night. I could actually make out the central bulge of the Milky Way down near Sagittarius with the naked eye. There were also a few other Messier objects that could be seen with the naked eye.
We finished up around 3am again and were back at the hotel by 4am. It’s pretty clear, hot and not as windy as yesterday right now but there is a chance of rain after midnight tonight so hopefully the skies stay clear for a few more nights.
Welcome from Valentine, Ne.
Last night was started out at around 9:30 to be potentially a beer social night, but a small sucker hole started to form around 10 pm straight up. We were able to get a nice look at Saturn around 10:40 pm and by 11 when it was just getting dark the sky literally opened up into a beautiful panorama of stars. A lot of folks packed up and left just before dark and missed out. The winds up on the hills were too bad for any of the Dobs, but we set up down in a valley of a ridge and did not have problems until just before 3 am. The winds really picked up from 3 till around 4:30 when I finally got to sleep. I am amazed at the modern tents and their ability to bend and fold from the winds and recover.
We worked on Caldwell’s and Herschel’s most of the night. The Aurora was present with a few pillars formed early but mostly was a northern twilight most of the night. Transparency again was subpar for NSP, but we had 4 hours a good overall viewing.
I thought I’d give a few observations from over the last 3 days.
– finding faith galaxies in Ursa Major with average transparency and an Aurora do not make for a good combinations. The Lincoln sky glow comes to mind.
– Apparently, a 38 mm Q70 with an O III filter in a 12.5″ scope looking at the veil can turn a 28 year old into an 8 year old coming out of a candy store with grandma.
– Sorry Jack, but a lazer light show at the Planetarium (or anywhere) can not hold a candle to God’s plasma light show from the last 3 nights – especially Saturday night. But in all fairness, God did make himself one heck of a projector !
– Romney needs to hire the tourism public relations person from Phoenix. Any one that can try and tell you that 105 degrees with 30 mph winds is not that hot – it is a dry heat. This morning it was 97 at 11 am, 102 at 12:30 pm. Believe me, it is dang hot.
– the price of ice in relations to the outdoor temperature is a perfect market study case for any college business class.
– Fishermen and Astronomers have significantly contrasting views on noise, lighting, and sleeping. Boys and their toys.
– Apparently my sausage and eggs this morning were not the right mix for the black sand hills flies. Although, the body chemistry of the human body below the knees is a perfect chemical smorgasbord.
– If a wife wants to take their husbands out to a show that they would not be checking the scores, texting, sending emails, or any other activity, an Aurora in full display will keep their attention.
Saturday night – Right as the first stars started to show Brian Sivill and myself started to collimate the scope. It was way out of collimation due to the fact I have had it out while using the hyperstar and haven’t really used it for a good 6-8 months prior to NSP with me being in Mitchell, SD first then off to Rapid City, and now at Sioux City. After a good hour we had finally collimated my scope. The polar alignment went really fast. Around midnight on Saturday night the first Auroras began to show up. Brian and I quick grabbed the tripods and our DSLR cameras and began shooting. The first show had good columns rising high in the north going past Polaris. The second show started around 2:45-3:00am right as most of us had gotten everything packed up except the cameras. The second show was brighter than the first but there were less columns. This one has 2-3 major columns and were more in the north eastern sky. The most intense column went straight up right east of Perseus.
Sunday night – It was windy. Up on Dob row nobody even attempted to set up at all rather we gathered the camping chairs and cameras and waited for the hope that the auroras would show up again. The clouds where still out and about when the sun set until around 11:30pm. Then it started to clear up but the wind never let up. The auroras where going all night long obscuring the most of the lower north sky. The pictures show with the auroras where not as spectacular at the first night but none the less were neat to see again. I also did a star trail photo that was a combination of 60 -one minute images stacked using the free software startrails. After that I ventured on down to PAC valley where they were shielded from the wind and observed for a while before heading back to the cabin. Got to see the Trifid nebula and some very faint galaxies.