This is my final update from NSP, because I am already back in Lincoln.
Wednesday during the day alot of the people attending met at the high school for a swap meet, lunch, and some lectures and videos. 2 of the lectures we had were through Skype with people at JPL in california. Steve Lee, the guidance and landing person for the Mars Curiosity lander. What a fascinating talk! We then heard Jack Dunn talk about the future of human space flight and watched a video called “The City Dark.” We then finally talked with a guy who worked on the computer program called “Eyes of the Solar System.” It’s basically a 3d real time simulator of the solar system and space probes. We then went back to the hotel for a nap then dinner.
After the rain from the night before and a storm during the day we had high hopes for the night. We arrived on site around 8pm to get all set up. The ground was a bit damp from an earlier storm. The skies were looking really good. We set up on the top of a hill to try and let the breeze help control the mosquitoes. Which didn’t really help as they were buzzing in our face and ears all night. I continued to work on my Caldwell objects, but the first 2 hours or so I couldn’t find a thing. It was frustrating because I knew the objects were there but just couldn’t see them. I then took a break to spend some time looking at some things I could find. I started in Sagittarius and worked my way up the milky way. M7, Andromeda, M11 and N. American nebula could all be seen naked eye. I eventually went back to the Caldwell’s after that. We finished around 5am just as the twilight was blocking out the dim stuff and both Jupiter and Venus were rising in the west. We ended up getting in around 22 hours of observing time over 4 nights. I logged 35 Caldwell objects over the week and have just 3 or 4 of the summer objects left leaving only the winter ones.
Overall, the trip went excellent. My scope performed beautifully much better than I had anticipated. The social time with the other club members was great as well as meeting people from all over the country who also enjoy astronomy as much as I do. The night sky out there is something that everyone should experience. I can’t wait to go back next year!
We came home this morning after an great day and night at NSP. After Tuesday’s rain out we all got a good night sleep which was a blessing for Wednesday. Wednesday started out at the Valentine HS with the days program. The primary speaker Skyped in was Steven Lee who is the person who heads the team responsible for the landing procedures of the Curiosity Mars Lander that will arrive on Mars Aug 6th. A video is available on the web “Seven minutes of terror” explains the complex engineering feat.
The other speaker was Douglas ….. Who developed an interactive software package app that allows you to look at different parts of our universe in 3D at any point in history going back or forward 50 years. It is a cool website at solarsystem.nasa.gov/eyes. During the door prizes I was lucky enough to win a Nikon 10×50 Wide Angle binoculars and an bino observing chair. Unfortunately last night during a first test the chair collapsed, but the binoculars are really great.
After dinner, we drove down to the field site with rain sprinkles and a line of storms in the area. Yet, by 9 pm the storms had moved east and it began to clear. The misquitoes came out in force to begin with but a light breeze came up from the SE and we had only a few brief issues with them the rest of the night. Each night has been a little better and last night was probable our best viewing night overall.
We set up on top of a hill with 5 scopes. Saturn got us started about 10:45 pm and then each of us started working on our lists. Jason was working on his Caldwells, Dan and I were focused mostly on Herschel’s, and Dave Hamilton had two old classmates join him and they were enjoying many of the Messiers. I did spend a few minutes checking out my new binoculars and they are really nice. I could identify all of the key objects in Sagittarius easily. We set up the new observing chair and when we set it back into the observing position the arms collapsed and it trapped Dave inside the observing arm. It took a little effort to get Dave untangled from the contraption. It created a great humerous moment. Oh well, the price was right.
The skies were much better last night. For instance, the first 4 nights we were unable to find objects in Coma Berenices because we could not find the target stars, but Wed night we could make of the primary stars so seeing had improved. I’ll bypass a review of the objects we were able to see, but we did get to experience the sunrise as we traveled back to th hotel after 5 am. We viewed until the sky was lighting to a point that many of the stars were not viewable. Jupiter and Venus were cool to see as our last views just before sunrise.
Since we came back to Lincoln today this will be my last report. Unfortunately, We did not get to experience one of the infamous NSP clear nights, but overall we had a great time getting to see old friends and sharing our hobby. If you ever get a chance, the NSP is a great experience and maintains it’s reputation as one of the best dark sky sites in the nation.