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5/16/2010

Locations, Lakeside site and Light Pollution

Well, I have plenty of sketches to process from last night, but as I stated that will take this week to get done. I have grades I need to enter in today and I would like to get out again tonight, but locally.

Last night I drove about an hour and twenty minutes to a Bortle 3 site called Lakeside. My SQM gave it a slightly better reading than the Rush Valley site I use but not by much. The north-east, east and south-east are totally impacted by the sky glow coming from the Wasatch front; basically the Ogden to Salt Lake Co. areas (more like Davis Co. and Salt Lake Co. if you know the area). You can see the area I was observing at here with a map of the Wasatch Front here. If this will link correctly, perhaps the best view to see how LP affects this site is from the Dark Sky Finder located here. On the Dark Sky Finder you can at least see how the LP to the east impacts this site even if the color codes are off.

I have to say that I used my Sky Quality Meter or SQM over the last two observing sites and I have to state that the Dark Sky Finder is ONLY a guide to the sky. Pit n Pole which is on that map which is a site in the green that I use is fantastic at zenith (almost matching a site like Lakeside with a difference of only 0.08 in the SQM, with its south-eastern, south and south-west skies just gorgeous with no major LP in the field of view. My standard was the Milky Way, and in this case Pit n Pole in Rush Valley had a much better view of the summer Milky Way this weekend then the Lakeside site. The Milky Way had to get over 35 to 40 degrees in the sky before it showed up at Lakeside. At Pit n Pole, it was viewable with details at around 30 degrees. Light Pollution made all the difference. The major difference was humidity. Humidity hits the Pit n Pole site earlier than it does at the Lakeside site. In a month, that won't matter. So I need to find a site that is higher up near Pit n Pole which is closer to my home and that allows me to view without the humidity reaching sixty percent and climbing up to ninety percent. I don't know how someone in the Mid-West or East Coast observes with humidity starting around seventy or eighty percent and climbing higher. Humidity doesn't impact my mirrors or my eyepieces (last night it did kinda of) but it sure doesn't help a field book, paper or sketching. Hats off to those who sketch in high humidity areas also!

So besides getting a bunch of objects observed and sketched, what did I learn last night? I learned to look for a new observing location closer to home for when humidity is up but that is near my one location at Pit n Pole. Next, always have a small shovel with you in case there aren't facilities . . . I made it work with a hatchet and luckily the ground was soft, but in all seriousness, spend $10 and get a small portable shovel in case you need to dig a hole. I had the tissue paper, luckily a hatchet worked with a piece of broken ATV windshield to move the dirt back, but I bought a small shovel today. Last, don't assume because Dark Sky Finder says a sky is in a certain zone that it is in a certain zone or that the views aren't better in a green vs a gray zone. Usually not the case, but light pollution can factor and in my case did factor into it. I'll process my sketches later this week but here are some images I took.


























XT10 Cooling down; Utah West Desert in the background.


























Looking west from my setup.



























Looking South . . . I-80 is in the far distance, not enough to even notice at night.



























Waxing Crescent (gave some great views) with Venus up and to the left (can you spot Venus?).






































Waxing Crescent Moon with Venus to the upper left. The hills/mountains I guess some would call them you can drive into and observe from there. I do that if I think the humidity is going to go up. I didn't last night and the humidity came up around 2:30a.m. more than I thought it would. Still, the pictures show the views that are to be had out there.