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8/27/2011

Clear Dark Skies?


I have ran into several people who are amateurs from back east who think I am so lucky to live in the west, especially in Utah. I will openly admit that we have some wonderful dark skies in Utah when compared to most parts of the country, but we still have our challenges. Also, dark skies come in many forms so be careful what you wish for , you may get just that. I was hoping for dark skies this weekend, and I think I found them . . .

One of the challenges we face in Utah is this thing called the monsoon, and this year, well, its been in the way more often than not. The monsoon this year started early in June and has never really let up this year. Maybe for a week here or there, especially around full moon, but its been a struggle all summer. The cause of this is a high pressure that parks over the four corners (where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado meet) and that rotates moisture up from Mexico on the back side into Utah. It is the pits for observing especially around new moon. Last night wasn't any different. I wanted to go to Wolf Creek but that is out of the question because I'd be sitting in clouds I fear at 10,000 feet. So my friend Mat and I decided to try Pit n Pole since it is only a 45 minute drive for us and if we got skunked by clouds, it's not a bad drive and its quick. I got out there first and though hoping it might clear after the setting of the sun, I lost hope pretty quick. But it wasn't a total lost. On the way out I saw my friend the buck antelope and it was nice in a way to know he is in the area I guess. Click on the pictures as always to make the image larger.






































After making my left turn off the bumpy road (it needs some TLC out there but state funds are really low so I guess back roads aren't a priority in Utah) I noticed a rather large rainstorm hitting the area to the south. It was captivating in many ways so I took the camera back out and started taking pictures. Here are some of what I captured:


Looking to the Southwest, dark skies but not the kind I want . . .




















Yes, that is sheets of rain falling down, rather cool I think! Oh, I wish I could share with the smell of the rain out in the desert and the smell of the sagebrush (yes, it can cause allergies to go off), and the feeling of the expansiveness of the view. I think I connected this day with what I call my inner John Muir, it perhaps like a religious experience being part of this and being the only human (minus the one car on the highway that drove by at one point) that took this in.


















I am hoping between the two images you can get a feeling for how fast this storm was moving. I took them back to back with about 10 seconds between shots.


















Here's that same cell moving east and about spent.



















Here's the view right after the turn on the dirt road looking northwest. At the low point was a really good down pour also.



















Still some showers to the west south-west here.



















Looking south-south-east with more rain showers in the distance. Yep, more dark skies!



















At the Pit n Pole location (where we setup) looking east to the Wasatch Mountains (Mount Timpanogos in the background). Yes, blue sky! Not for long though.


















This picture is at the Pit n Pole location looking north and it isn't looking so good out there.



















Well, that's all I post on the blog (I have more). I did have a wonderful time listening to Mat (he showed up right after these pictures were taken) and he told me about his adventures in Bryce Canyon at the ALCON that was there and being out at Great Basin. I am going to go to Great Basin as everyone who has been to both just raves on how dark Great Basin is over Bryce now. We also discussed some of the counter weight issues for when I get my 14 inch Zambuto mirror and how to counter the loss of weight. We went in the ATM projects I am going to do and I am going to do the dew straps since fall is coming up and that can be problem. Then I'll work on the 8 inch mirror and building that into a scope and I have my new chair that I am going to do and finally a binocular rig that will hold my binoculars in place so I can sit back and observe without holding them. Probably done in that order. I really enjoyed talking with Mat as we hoped for the sky to clear and between a great conversation with a good friend, my inner John Muir moment and the pictures, I really had an enjoyable experience. Just wish I had been able to get some observing in, only thing missing. Oh yes, I learned a new motto as well. I want CLEAR dark skies, not just dark skies since they can come in many facets as I showed today . . . So here is hoping you have clear, dark skies.


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