The weather forecast for 21 December was for clear skies at Oracle Observatory, with a possibility of partly cloudy skies for nighttime on 22 December. Since I hadn't been for a couple of months I decided to go. I left home at 0444 PST and arrived at Oracle Observatory at 1422 MST. The sky was mostly clear with some high cirrus clouds low in the West and the temperature was a comfortable 54°F. By the time I got everything set up, the clouds had advanced further to the East, as seen in this setup photo taken at 1600 MST (note the high clouds at the right edge of the photograph):
But at least the clouds made for a pretty Sunset at 1725 MST (temperature now down to 36°F):
I did manage to catch a glimpse of Venus and a thin crescent Moon in some small holes in the clouds shortly after Sunset.
At 1815 the cirrus clouds were covering most of the sky. With the temperature now at 32°F I decided to go back to the tent, curl up inside the sleeping bag, and listen to my iPod. The temp inside the tent was a balmy 34 degrees!
After snoozing a bit I checked the sky conditions at 0016. The cirrus clouds were still up there although the Winter Milky Way was nice to see. So back to the tent, where the temperature was now 31 degrees.
I slept most of the rest of the night and when I went out at 0720 MST I saw this:
The view in the photo even looks cold; the temperature was 38°F under totally cloudly skies.
At 0900, with the temperature at 42°F under mostly cloudy skies, I decided to use the downtime to pack up most things into the car as the weather did not look promising. I figured that when I called the wife in a couple of hours to check the Clear Sky Clock forecast I could unpack if needed. As it turned out, at 1050 MST the Clear Sky Clock forecast wasn't good either so I took down the tent and started my drive back home to California. About 30 miles Northwest of Oracle I ran into some heavy rainshowers, so I guess the decision to leave was the correct one.
So much for my plan to take a series of Horsehead Nebula astrophotographs. Maybe next trip.
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