Leigh & Mark
Mark & Leigh arrived: 6:30 pm
Guests: Robb Farion, Cheryl and Jesse
Mark and I met at the gate to the forest and drove up in our own vehicles as we thought we might have guests joining us later in the evening. Mark had his truck filled with tools as well as three garbage buckets full of crushed gravel. Our early arrival was in order to prepare a site for our new biffy.
We had selected a site part way up the road between the heliport and the observatory. For those who might not know, the clearing at the turn in the road is actually a heliport. I for one would not ever want to be in a helicopter attempting to land there. I think you would soon find out what an ant must feel hitching a ride on your weedwacker.
Mark and I dug out the site in order to level the ground and then filled it back in with the crushed gravel that Mark had picked up earlier in the day. We measured and put a level across it to be satisfied of our work and then took some photos for posterity before cleaning up and preparing for the upcoming night of imaging.
Mark had brought his Astro-Trak with plans to take wide field images of the sky with his DSLR. He was setting up on the outside pad when my my cell phone bleeped a reminder that I was to meet people that might show up at the gate by 8:00. I took off and met Robb Farion at the gate. I let him through and he drove his van up to the heliport. HIs plans for the evening were to continue his learning of astro photograhy alongside Mark.
Before I had set off for the gate I had recieved a phone call from Cheryl. She asked if herself and her daughter Jesse could join us for the evening. I was more than happy to have them join us. I told them that we were planing an evening of imaging. Cheryl thought that would be fun for them to observe and told me they would join us soon.
When they arrived it was still not dark enough to start imaging. I had uncovered the scope and computer in preperation and now I had time to introduce Cheryl and Jesse to Mark and Robb. Thanks to the long twilight of May nights we had lots of time to talk about things above the Earth as well as our new biffy to be delivered.
Once we could see stars I asked Jesse if she wanted to join me in the dome to prepare to image some targets. Jesse accepted and we proceeded to the dome and started preperations for imaging with the LX200. I neglected to invite Cheryl, and she was too polite to speak up. My appologies to Cheryl, and a note to myself to be completely inclusive of all our guests who visit us in the future.
Once I had the telescope aligned and synced to the computer we move the telescope to Zeta Hercules to enable us to focus. Jesse and I decided to try imaging M13, so using this star made sense. We were able to obtain a FWHM of 5.2 and no better. I think the columation may need some more adjustment after we mounted the Sbig camera. Another night we will play around with that. There was still a fair amount of moisture in the air from the warm afternoon, which may have made the seeing a little poorer early on in the evening.
We moved the telescope to M13 and took a test image. We then took a test image with the guide camera. I had to move the scope a little bit to get a suitable star in the guide camera view. We took another test image through the main scope to satisfy ourselves we still had a good view of M13. I then showed Jesse how to take images to determine exposure through each filter. She caught on right away. By the time we had determined what we hoped were good exposures, I had Jesse set up for the images we wanted.
She set up a series of 6 min and 5 min exposures with each filter times five. The guider was doing an excellent job on PHD so we let it go to it. After starting the program and shutting down all light sources in the dome we went outside to join everyone else and let the program run. Jesse’s image would take till 12:10am to finish. Jesse and Cheryl stayed with us until almost 12:30am. Mark volunteered to do the processing and we look forward to seeing how it turned out. We hope to post it on this site when it is finished.
Cheryl had stayed outside and watched Robb and Mark taking images of a much larger portion of the sky. Along with Robb, she asked lots of great questions and I was glad Mark was there to answer them. Cheryl is also very engaged with local schools and public outreach in our community. We had some very good conversations on these topics. Mark and I hope to keep this dialogue open.
Mark used his laser to give everyone a tour of the night’s consellations and highlight some of the objects within them. He was able to show some of them on the images he had taken. It is always fun to wander around the night sky when it is dark and clear. I never tire of the experience.
I am not sure which parts of the sky Robb was imaging, however Mark was imaging Hercules and the surrounding sky. I look forward to seeing their images in the future.
After Cheryl, Jesse and Robb had all departed, Mark continued to image with his camera. He shifted his attention to Cygnes and the surrounding Milky Way. I look forward to seeing those photos! I went back to the telescope and shifted my attention to M57. I used a nearby star of 5 magnitude to re-focus and then slewed to M57. After finding and locking onto a guide star with PHD I set up an imaging run that went until 4:30. By that time twilight was upon us. I then had to run darks for the night. That took another hour. By the time we finished everything and packed up it was 5:30. Another hour and Mark and I would have been there 12 hours.
It was nice to have an all nighter at the telescope. We haven’t had many nights this last winter that afforded us that. The seeing wasn’t perfect and there is still work to be done on the telescope, but you know, I had fun. Mark told me he had fun too so I would say it was a successful night at the AOMO.
Depart: Mark & Leigh 5:40am
I almost forgot the bug report. Although the mosquitoes were as large a Sykorsky Sky Cranes, they were not persistant biters. It was also hard for them to land on you without you noticing. I found the little flies more annoying in the early evening but they went to bed after dark. On the way home I saw one deer in the medow behind the forest offices.