With weather looking wet and wild for the 2019 Cherry Springs Star Party and things looking slightly less soggy at Calhoun we decided to cancel on Cherry Springs and gamble on Calhoun. Good thing we were setup on the top of a ridge so we never had to deal with muddy conditions considering all the rain we didn’t know was coming.
Due to a moisture breach of my camera causing frosting issues which caused me to throw out all but 4.5 hours of data out of 18 I figured I might as well post this as it’s not going to get much better. Image scale was 1.31 arcsec/pixel which seems to give fairly decent sampling for the average seeing here in East Tennessee. Imaging location just outside Clinton, TN with average SQM measurements ranging from 20.1 to 20.4 mag/arcsec^2.
I attended the annual Calhoun County Park Star Party (Oct 5-7) for the first time this year. The sky wasn’t the best it could be. Friday and Sat night both had humidity and dew off the charts with variable fog that seemed to slide up and down the hill but never got so high that it killed observing. I can’t help but think that it impaired the images a little but it may have just been the choice of a faint target during a hazy time of year. Sky quality measurements topped and held pretty steady around 21.6 mag/arcsec^2. I’m sure on a crisp night it would be a little darker. While there were some small light domes on the horizon they weren’t hardly worth mentioning in my opinion. The park was wonderful and the staff was so friendly they even prepared a great meal for us on Sat night. In total about 16 people showed for the party from TN, WV, PA, OH, and KY. Special thanks to Larry McHenry for posting info about the star party and turning us onto this event and Calhoun as an observing site. He typically posts updates on Cloudynights star party forum for upcoming Calhoun events.
Since Calhoun is pretty dark I decided to go after a fainter full spectrum object than I could ever do from home. VdB objects (reflection nebulae compiled by Sidney van den Bergh) are great targets when looking for something off the beaten path but aren’t always what I would call showcase objects. VdB 14 and 15 make for a nice parring here in a rich park of the sky in Camelopardalis.
Unfortunately we were mostly clouded out for the star party. From the sounds of it some of the other big star parties going on concurrently were also clouded out. It just wasn’t a good weather weekend for a large portion of the eastern US. Regardless of the clouds, the rangers at Pickett put together some good food and speakers for the event to keep it entertaining. I stayed for only one night and snapped a few pics of the hazy skies with the Milky Way trying to peak through.
I made the 13 hour trip up to Cherry Springs State Park for the Annual CSSP Star Party hosted by the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg PA, Inc. I went up a few days before the star party since it’s always helpful to get a good spot. Those of us that were there early on Monday night were treated to a fabulous night with SQM measurements >21.9! Overall it was an amazing streak of clear weather for PA with a total of 4 imaging nights. I was hoping for one or two so as not to set my expectations too high so I was very pleased with four nights!
I even did a little visual at low power with a 4″ refractor. LDN 1795 (large 50’x50’dark nebula in Scorpius) looked absolutely amazing to me at 19X. First time I had a WOW moment visually.
A couple images from last years 2017 CSSP that I finally got around to looking at. It wasn’t a very productive astrophotography trip but enjoyable none the less.
If you’re going to come to a star party like this please follow the rules and don’t be a rude jackass like the following guy. We all understand and tolerate some light issues, car alarms, and emergencies but when you light the place up over and over without any regard for your neighbors I would suggest staying home and not ruining everyone else’s vacation!
I recently replaced the dome control electronics after the Foster Systems controller bit the dust and I replaced with a MaxDome II controller for rotation and shutter operation. It’s working flawlessly so far and I couldn’t be happier. I threw the 5″ refractor back in the observatory with the 16803 chipped camera for a widefield rig at 2.2 arcsec/pixel resolution. Drizzle processing yields better star shapes/sampling than the low resolution would suggest. Both images are cropped from the same image with 20.5 hours of total exposure time in the traditional Hubble Pallet.
I was the first one to arrive for the star party on Saturday night at Look Rock South. It’s a beautiful view to the south looking into the Smokies.
We definitely had some clouds for the beginning of the night with some sucker holes now and then. I was never able to get off a 20 minute shot without the clouds rushing in within 10 minutes…
But things finally started to clear up and the Milky Way really started to pop out.
Once it was cleared up I was off to take some test shots and validate the portable rig was ready for more serious projects. NGC 6820 AKA Sharpless SH 2-86 and all the surrounding emission and dark nebula has always been a favorite of mine. It’s located in Vulpecula not that far from M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. It reminds me of a less popular M16 with it’s gas and dust pillars and dark globules. Open cluster NGC 6823 resides in the midst of the nebula and is about 6,000 light years away.
I’ve got multiple items across our home, garage, and the observatory which suffered from a local discharge on 7/6. The observatory was the worst hit with the computer, mount, 2 ethernet switches, powerline ethernet adapters, weather monitor, and possibly other items damaged.
Work continues to repair, replace, and rebuild. Unfortunately, I think I’ll be down for a little while as I continue to evaluate the extent of the damage. Hope to be back up in time for some summer nebula imaging but not holding my breath.
Getting ready for the eclipse and testing one of the imaging setups today. Took a single DSLR shot of a couple sunspots. Sun spot 2648 is on the left, 2645 is the most prominent group closer to center, with 2644 on the right.