Sunday, July 8, 2007

Dark Skies and Fog

It was great to get out with a posse of friends last night. Lou and Adolfo were at Coyote Lake, as was Bill, a new friend. Aside from fog that rolled in at about 11pm and cut the evening short (not to mention cold) we had a great time. Adolfo brought some of his friends along, and they seemed to have a good time as well.

I arrived early to set up my new red dot finder so that I could actually find things. Lou helped me collimate which was pretty nice given that she has a much more exact laser collimator than I do. Someday I'm going to get to a site early enough to use my collimation cap to adjust the primary mirror so that I don't have to muck about with the laser as much. It took me awhile to get everything aligned, but the good news is that I did it and it made the evening go very well.

In spite of some high clouds, the viewing before the fog rolled in was pretty good. Note to self: Set up far enough away from the car that it doesn't obscure objects closer to the horizon. I missed Saturn entirely because it was so low in the sky and Wonder Woman wouldn't lend me her jet. Maybe if the Underoos had still fit-oh wait, they do. Now there's no excuse.

At any rate, Jupiter was looking spectacular last night. It didn't take much of a production to see lots of bands-just breathtaking. Also, every time I'd seen it before, Jupiter's Galilean moons were all lined up in a row. This time, one of them was out of line. Very fun to see. I think I also saw a 5th moon, but I was too busy oohing and aaahing over the planet to investigate further.

The other highlight of the evening was when Lou found comet VZ13. I'd brought some very imprecise instructions on how to find it on Thursday, so she found better directions and found it for us this time around. Very cool.

Early in the evening, one of the park rangers drove through on his rounds, and apologized for having his lights on, not realizing astronomers were set up. I thought that was nice of him, given that there were only four of us and we were mostly just chatting at that point. You know you've got a good park ranger when he is game to look through your telescope and at least act suitably impressed. :)

I was really glad to meet Bill. He has built so many cool tools for himself. A lot of astronomers do this, but I was impressed by the case he built for his scope because it contains places for all of his gear as well as some built in red LEDs to make it easier to put all of the stuff away in the end. He also had this cool compass/level combo for getting his equatorial mount set up in about two minutes flat. I was impressed.

All of my recent viewing experiences lead me to think that I have finally found "my people." Musicians are nice, other moms are nice, random computer geeks are nice, but amateur astronomers so far seem to be a class of people I understand and enjoy. Now to find a way to avoid being sleep deprived while enjoying this new found social circle...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am glad you are having a good time with all this. I think you'll just have to suffer with late nights and eventually learning calculus.