12 March 2005
In September 2004, we purchased some "retirement land" in Oracle, Arizona, north of Tucson. After being frustrated by months of rainy weekends, full moons, and scheduling conflicts, I was finally able to spend a Saturday night, 12 March, on our land with one of my telescopes.
Currently, there are no buildings on our land, just desert plants, rabbits, and road runners. But the view of the skies are the darkest I've seen in decades! And the view across the valley is awesome! Here are a few photos of the area:
The drive from our home south of Los Angeles to Oracle takes a little over eight hours, and with my Toyota Prius Hybrid, the gas prices are tolerable. For this trip, I left home on Saturday morning and arrived shortly before sunset (seen below). After several hours observing (and thrilling a neighbor family with the sights through the telescope) and 4 hours of sleep, I left Oracle Sunday morning for the drive back home.
Here are two photos of the "observatory", taken at sunset (hence the red color). Well, just a tent (where the resident astronomer, me, sleeps) and a telescope. Once retirement comes (still several years away) I plan to build an observatory some place on the land.
I had a pretty good night with the LXD55-8"SC w/UHTC. I initially had a problem with the GOTOs but that turned out to be my error in the Daylight Saving setting (Oracle doesn't change). Once I got that solved, GOTOs were pretty good. The Moon was only a two-day old crescent so it didn't interfere with observing DSOs. It was nice being able to see faint galaxies like M51 and M101 without the Los Angeles light pollution hampering the views! M1 was easily viewed. And M42 in Orion was beautiful in a TeleVue 35mm 2" Panoptic eyepiece; lots of details were visible. Seeing was good enough to allow me to push the 8"SC to 625X (6.4mm eyepiece plus 2X Barlow Lens) on Saturn. Impressive!
For this trip I only took my Nikon Coolpix 995 digital camera and only photographed Jupiter and Saturn, as seen in these single-frame images using afocal photography with a 25mm eyepiece. The images were cropped and some minor "levels" adjustments were made but otherwise no editing was done.
Here is a nice photo of the Earth's shadow in the western sky just before sunrise:
I plan to take my new ETX-105PE w/UHTC on the next trip, tentatively planned for 2 April, weather permitting. Stay tuned...
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