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Weather and Travel Updates

Posted: 31 August 2015

The sky became overcast following my previous daytime Sun and Venus observing session on Sunday, 9 August 2015. Had a brief thunderstorm in the afternoon but only got 0.07" rain. Cloudy skies continued on Monday, 10 August, with another mostly dry (0.03" rain) but noisy thunderstorm in the late afternoon. Tuesday morning, 11 August, a storm came through with strong winds and some rain. I did a short Periscope livestream as the storm approached, the first few seconds of which can be seen by clicking the image below:

Click or tap on image for video

I left on travel just as the rain began to get heavy.

One of the stops on the trip was in Spokane, WA, for the World Science Fiction Convention. Wildfires in Washington state made for some interesting and unfortunate skies. When we arrived in Spokane on Tuesday, 18 August, a large wildfire was burning about 5 miles west of downtown:


That fire was put out overnight but other wildfires continued in the state. The air was classified as "Dangerous" on Friday, 21 August, as seen on this notice posted at many locations in the Spokane Convention Center:


The smoke smell was very obvious inside the Convention Center. Fortunately, the air quality improved on Saturday, 22 August. Here are photos taken outside of the Spokane Convention Center on Friday and Saturday to show the dramatic difference:

photo photo

The near First Quarter Moon appeared very red and dim on Friday night, as seen in this photo of it on the right above a building:


I will be posting more photos from this trip soon.

I returned home on Friday, 28 August. Only one night had been clear while I was away but we did get a total over 0.5" of rain from several storms during the absence. (Oracle State Park about 4 miles east of the observatory received 1.5" from one storm alone.)

Saturday, 29 August, had lots of monsoon season storms in the area. Missed out on seeing the Full Moon that night. Here's a view about sunset towards the west:


Sunday, 30 August, saw a strong, slowly moving, monsoon thunderstorm hit Oracle. Had lots of strong wind, heavy rain (0.7" in 1 hour, 0.97" in 90 minutes), some pea-sized hail, and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning. This was the strongest storm to hit the observatory this monsoon season. After the storm was over I checked the observatory; there had been a leak by one of the dome pivot joints. No damage; just some water pooling on a bay floor. This was the first leak in several years. Likely need to reseal the pivot area; the Arizona sun can be brutal on sealant. I went to the observatory Monday morning, 31 August, to apply more sealant. I found where the rain got in:



Unfortunately, my sealant supply had not been used in several years and had dried up! Will have to get more. I did readjust one of the L-rubber strips over the pivot joint to better close the opening.

While I was away, the 6th anniversary of Cassiopeia Observatory "First Light" occurred on 18 August 2015. I had been doing a cleanup in the observatory every year on the anniversary date. I didn't do it in 2014 as I planned to install a telescope pier at about the same time and would do the cleanup after the pier was installed. After I knew a pier installation wouldn't happen in 2014 I decided to defer the cleaning to August 2015, which has now been deferred once again. I plan to replace the 8" LX200-ACF with a 12" LX600 in January 2016 and will do a major observatory cleanup after removing the LX200 and before setting up the LX600. A pier is also planned but its installation will wait until after I have some experience with the LX600 in the SkyShed POD.

I will be giving a talk on "Beginner Digital Astrophotography" at Oracle State Park on Saturday, 17 October. Details on the Oracle State Park web site.

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