It was another enjoyable successful SRSP this spring. I got to see some old friends and make some new ones. I arrived later than I wanted on Wednesday, the first night of the Spring SRSP after waiting for some last minute equipment to arrive in the mail. This star party was the first time trying out several new set up changes for video astronomy. The first was using a hunting blind to house a full monitor, keyboard & mouse. I also picked up a mini, headless PC (MINIX brand) to remain on the battery, next to the scopes and then an HDMI cable to the monitor. A very comfortable set up but I’m a bit concerned with the amount of power I’m drawing.
It was especially rewarding to work with a father and son team (Michael & Aaron) at their first star party. They brought their Orion 6” dob to this outing of amateur astronomers to see what it was all about. My buddy Dave (from Lexington) and I helped with their collimation problems, dew issues and finder difficulties after their first night, Wednesday. Thursday night, with a well collimated scope, a loaner Orion multi reticle red dot finder and a few loaner Hyperion eyepieces, they were hooked! It was quite fulfilling to remember back to that stage of discovery of my own road on this journey of amateur astronomy.
Wednesday evening was clear with good skies but quite cold, below freezing by 1am and a low of 23 by sunrise! However, it was also a battle with new technology for me. After an hour of unsuccessfully trying to get my iPad to connect to my mini-PC located at the base of my scope, I then tried to align my scope by jumping from the finder at the scope to my shielded area with my monitor and keyboard running all my software about 10 feet away. After 3 unsuccessful alignment attempts, I called it quits and decide to catch up on lost sleep from a busy schedule at work. Thursday morning, in the daylight and with a well-rested mind, I resolved the issue in about 10 minutes.
Thursday evening was little warmer, mid 40s by sunset, 40 at midnight and right about freezing by the time I called it a night at 5am. I spent most of the evening hours showing off targets to passersby in the binoculars, in the AR102 with an eyepiece or via EAA/video astronomy through the CPC 1100. The Whirlpool galaxy (M52), the Sombrero galaxy (M104) and the Pinwheel galaxy (M101) where awesome looking from the CPC 1100. Unfortunately, M104 was still a little low in the sky to get a great view. All the pictures below where from 10 second (2 second captures x 5 internal camera stacks).
I didn’t seriously get into my own plans until after midnight. From that point I captured 15 objects towards my Herschel 400 list. The skies were quite clear, very transparent. The seeing jumped around all night with targets lower on the horizon being worse. It was fairly cold but the propane powered Mr. Heater in the blind kept things quite comfortable. I ended my observing around 5:00am.
The forecast for Friday was quite iffy with the threat of clouds looming. From 9 to 10:30 we had high but very thin clouds; the transparency we quite poor with the seeing was very steady. I was able to capture another 6 objects towards my Herschel 400. Around midnight the clouds parted for about 30 minutes and I was able to capture another 2 objects towards my Herschel 400 as well as comparing views of Jupiter through my AR102 achromat doublet refractor to Dave’s 60mm semi-apo refractor. Then the clouds rolled back in and viewing was completely shut out. At that point I began to hibernate my scopes, clean up a little, put the battery on the charger and strolled along the observing field. Not tired, I updated my logs for little bit. At some point around 2 or 2:30 the skies cleared up again and I spent some time just cruising the skies with the my 11×80 binoculars.
I knew the forecast for that last night of SRSP was not looking good. When I woke up Saturday morning, I checked the forecast again in the hopes of seeing a miraculous change. To my disappointment, the forecast for this the last night of SRSP was complete cloud cover. I decided to pack up early and surprise my family by getting home a day early.