The forecasts from the various services varied a lot in the days leading up to 28 January. A ten-day forecast had "clear" and "showers" for the same day! But things finally settled in on "clear" to "mostly clear" for the most part so I drive the 8.5 hours from home to Oracle Observatory, leaving at 0445 PST and arriving at 1415 MST.
When I arrived, the temperature was a nice 55°F and the sky looked like this:
Not too encouraging but the forecast said it would clear up.
As sunset approached the skies hadn't gotten better:
But it did make for a pretty sunset!
As the Sun set the temperature was 46°. The temperature dropped another 4 degrees in the next 25 minutes, at which time (1815) I took this photo of the "Astronomer's Quarters" at Oracle Observatory:
At 1830 some stars and Mars were visible through some holes in the clouds but there were more clouds than holes. So I decided to spend some time in the Astronomer's Quarters listening to some "Challenge of the Yukon" (old time radio show) episodes on my iPod.
At 2000 the temperature was 38° and it was mostly clear! There were some clouds up to about 30 degrees in altitude along the horizon from Northwest south through Southeast. But by 2030 the clouds were now overhead as well. I called home to get the "Clear Sky Clock" forecast. It said it would clear up between 2100 and 2200 hours and then stay clear until 0400 Sunday morning. So it was back to Sargeant Preston and his dog King as they meet the "Challenge of the Yukon"!
I checked the sky conditions at 2200 and there were more clouds than holes in the clouds. Rats. The temperature was 37°F. I decided to try for a couple of objects anyway.
Earlier in the day when I set up the LXD55-8"SC I discovered that the Right Ascension gear was slipping on its shaft. I had this problem back in 2003 and fixed it then. The problem had not appeared since then and now it picked a really lousy time to reappear. Since there was only one hour to sunset when I discovered the problem I elected to not try a "field repair" with darkness approaching and just live with it for the night, given the likelihood of poor viewing due to the clouds.
At 2200 I got the telescope pointed at Saturn and had a nice view through some thin clouds. Cassini Division was even visible at times with the 26mm eyepiece (77X). But the clouds and gear problem prevented any other telescopic viewing. So I decided to pack up the telescope and call it a night. After I finished packing all the observing equipment back in my car I took a few moments to enjoy a nice view of the Winter Milky Way through a large hole in the clouds overhead. City dwellers rarely get to see the Winter Milky Way so this was a nice treat to an otherwise busted trip to Oracle Observatory!
Until next time...
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