Arrived around 5 PM Thursday. Some clouds, so observing that night not likely. Off loaded equipment and set up at the site previously used by Mark Spearman of the Brazos Valley Astronomy Club (BVAC). Excellent choice. Neighbors came in that night from Houston, and from the Valley and Austin and other points. A wide range of viewing setups appeared. I went back to Sonora to watch Game 6 of the World Series, which was not a satisfying choice.
Friday, I arrived around 3 and got everything out from the covers and set up. Clear, beautiful skies were encouraging. Walked up the road to the lodge for dinner.
Thursday night was the best, clear and cold (30 deg F). Cassiopeia appeared at 7:45, and the Big Dipper and Polaris followed at 7:50 and the Wow of the Milky Way occurred at 8:13. Finally, the full sky was exposed in clarity at 9:31. There was a thin crescent Moon, but it did not interfere.
My goal for the first night (Friday) was to pan the area with binoculars and then use the newly constructed and untested hinge tracker to record a panorama across the sky, using my Canon S2IS and no zoom. The plan is set out roughly in the photo below.
Even though I did not get it well polar aligned at the start and it was difficult to aim, it worked very well. Images in my Gallery can be matched with the general locations above. One image shows the Northern Cross and Lyra. Another shows Sagittarius dipping below the horizon in the West. Felt good about these results. I set my Orion 8 inch SkyVew Pro on M31 early and it tracked well for over 2 hours. All was well, so I packed up and left for Sonora around midnight.
The plan for Saturday night was to image M31 with the Orion 8 inch and my SPC900NC web cam. This has been difficult to do back in College Station due to the light polluted skies. The dark skies of El Dorado would be a fair test. Didn’t happen. During dinner back at the lodge one person who could call up the weather on his phone observed that there were clouds in the West that appeared to be coming toward us. They were. We walked back to the site, visited and asked and offered opinions on whether things would get better or worse. Of course, they did both. I enjoyed visiting with folks, looking at their telescopes, and sitting and watching the skies. I packed up about 10:30 and came back to the hotel, to get ready to come home Sunday morning. Some who camped at the site or stayed at the lodge probably had clear skies in the morning but I don’t think that the quality was up to what we had Friday night.
Sure it is a six plus hour trip out and then a fairly long trip from Sonora to the site. That could have been tiring, but it wasn’t. The scenery along the road was great; had not for many years seen the striations in the cuts along the highway caused by the sedimentation when this area was under the ocean. That was a plus. A GPS definitely provided confidence along the route, right up to the site.
Hope to go again, but on significant events like this, you simply need to seize the moment.
Individual photos appearing below can be displayed in full size by clicking first on the photo that appears and then on the Full Size note at the top of the photoimage. Further magnification obtained by clicking with the cursor (+) symbol on this image.