The weather forecasts for 5-6 May were somewhat shakey; there could be some clouds and it could be windy (gusts greater than 20 MPH). But I wanted to try to see a very young Moon (15-16 hours old), which would require a clear view of the western horizon, so I decided to chance it. I arrived at Oracle Observatory at 1415 MST. The temperature was 81°F. The sky had some clouds, most notably in the west, and it was rather hazy. The replacement 8" LX90-ACF for the bad 8" LX90-ACF that replaced the first bad 8" LX90-ACF that was supposed to replace the extended backordered LXD75-8"SC that was to replace the stolen LXD75-8"SC had not yet arrived so I took my ETX-125AT and my PST (Personal Solar Telescope). I completed setting up at 1530 and here's what the setup looked like:
The ETX-125AT is left of center, the PST is on a photographic tripod near the center, and my various accessories are on the table at the right.
At 1600 MST, air temperature 89°F, with a slight breeze blowing, I viewed the Sun with the PST. There were no sunspots visible but there were two very nice prominences on the solar limb. These are what makes having the PST so much fun!
I then walked around the 3 acres and took these photographs:
Following the walkaround I retired to the "Astronomer's Quarters" (my tent) and listened to some episodes of "The Six Shooter" old time radio show, starring Jimmy Stewart, on my iPod. At 1850 I looked out and saw these cloud formations, formed by "gravity waves" in the atmosphere:
As you can see in the photograph above, the western sky had a lot of cloud cover. At 1900, temperature 64°F, I took this photo of the sun behind those clouds, with a yucca on the right:
At 1907 MST I took this photo of the sun above the distant mountains:
With the clouds on the western horizon I was unable to locate the very young Moon, which would have been only a short distance above the horizon. So my personal record remains the 21 hour old Moon that I saw from Oracle Observatory on 27 May 2006. I did get to see the planet Mercury, just above the cloud bank.
At 1947 MST I did an Easy Align on the AutoStar and a GOTO Mercury. A nice disk appeared in the 26mm eyepiece (75X). Mars was also nice in the 26mm. Of course, both planets were small in size. Saturn was lovely in the 26mm eyepiece and a 9.7mm eyepiece (201X). By 2035 MST, with the temperature at 60°F, the clouds were still in the west but climbing higher into the sky and the breezes were getting stronger. I viewed M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, in a 40mm (49X) eyepiece. It was faint but viewable. It actually looked better in the 26mm eyepiece with both central hubs and some spiral structure being visible. M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy, was similar; OK in the 40mm but best in the 26mm, where spiral structure could be seen. I then looked at the M81 and M82 galaxies. With the 26mm eyepiece both galaxies were visible at the same time in the field-of-view. But the 40mm eyepiece actually provided the better view, both in the same FOV and appearing somewhat brighter.
By 2130 MST the clouds had reached the zenith and the winds were getting stronger. It was obvious that I would be doing no astrophotography this night. I decided to go inside the tent for awhile. I put the AutoStar to sleep, so as to not lose the alignment I had done at the start of the evening. I covered the telescope aperture and put the eyepieces into their cases. As I was doing that I noticed that there was a lot of dust from the winds on the aperture lens and eyepieces. I'll have to clean them.
I checked the sky conditions at 2245, temperature down to 57°F. It was mostly cloudy. So I closed up for the night. When I awoke at 0630 the next morning the sky was clear and the wind was calm. But the Clear Sky Chart for the evening was for cloudy skies beginning at sunset so I decided to pack up and go home.
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