Observing Session? Lakeside Utah, December 17, 2011

Well, I'm back already from my night of observing out at Lakeside (It's about 7:00p.m. now when I am starting this entry). Everything from the satillites to the National Weather Service to Clear Sky Clock to Skippy Astronomy Weather called for good clear skies. Both Mat and I had our lists and were ready to start in either Fornax or Eridanus and then work up from there. It just wasn't met to be but we did learn some things that are good for future reference.

On the drive out we pass the tallest stack west of the Mississippi which is part of the Kennocot/Rio Tinto mining operations here in the greater Salt Lake Valley area. It is so tall that the smog/fog as I call it hides its true height. Since I am fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and have been since 1977, every time I see this stack I want it to be black and then I could call it Isengard, but I digress.

On the drive out Mat and I spoke a few times by cell phone and I could tell when I hit the stack that this wasn't going to be a night of observing as planned. Well, I wanted to see what the actual observing site is like so I kept heading out. Plus I had a new toy I wanted to share with Mat.

After a nice hour and ten minute drive, I got to Exit 62 on westbound I-80 and took it and snapped this shot. Sorry, many of these will be blurry because I was going slow, but still moving and the camera I was using was not my usual, and it didn't compensate (I forgot to set it to do so whistling).

I approached the stop sign looking for Mat's van when I saw him parked off the road to the right. Yes, look at those deep blue skies foretelling a wonderous night of observing deep sky objects!

Well, Mat and I met up and it was for sure that there would be no observing. I let Mat know that I wanted to head out and take a look at the site and he agreed that he also had the same idea so we took the long drive out to the observing site little knowing what we were going to run into.

There's that nice long, straight road that heads out to the observing site. Feel free to compare it to the August 6th, 2010 post I have with pictures of the same drive. The next image is just more of the same road though a little blurry. Wait . . . what is that in the distance huddled on the road? It reminds one that one needs to drive defensively out here as there are many wild things out here.

Well, this summer on the way to Wolf Creek on UT32 I ran into sheep (see that post). I should have known that when I ran into cows it wasn't a good day. That night at Wolf Creek in September turned out to be really windy with poor seeing and I was beginning to get sick. This night, the cows just signaled that it wasn't our night to observe. I find it funny that in the summer Pronghorn Antelope are often found in this area and I have rarely seen a cow except on the hillsides to the right (east of the observing site). This night they proved that they, the cows, were the masters of this region and that on this cold winter's night. However, by honking my horn they moved off the road though they left a mess and I had to guide the car around their land paddies.

After waiting briefly for the cows and getting on down the road, I came to that famous sign that signals an observing heading to Lakeside to turn left:

So in the next image you can see where you turn left to the left and we found that at this area it was covered by about a quarter inch of snow.

The next two images looked worse (because they are so blurry) then the road actually was. Once I turned into the road I put the Pathfinder into 4WD just in case but found I didn't need it. Mat followed easily in his fan. The right side of the road has that one quarter inch of snow on it but the left side didn't.

Here is the turn to the Bern/Observing area. It was easy to identify even with the snow on it and now problem going over it.

Some may not recognize the next picture as the area where many ATVers unload and load their ATV's from their trailers. It is the first open area after turning into the Bern/Observing area. You can see the 5-6 foot Bern (?, might be higher) to the right.

This next image is the area that I have set up many times to observe. If you were with us in the last time I was here it was the area that my friend George and David R. were set up to do their imaging. I am to the south of that location with the image looking north.

This image shows the Bern again to the right, and shows the area I was set up at last time with Josh using my XT10. It is the area the Joe Bauman, a good friend sets up often to do his imaging. This image is looking north again. In both images you can see our tire tracks which were the only sign that someone living had been here, except for a possible ATV track but that may have happen before the snow fell here.

From the observing sites I took the next photo which is looking west toward Skunk Ridge I believe. That ridge and set of mountains/hills are plainly visible in good conditions. Not tonight though.

This image is looking east from near the top of the Bern which allowed me to take this picture.

Here's my black Pathfinder and the front of Mat's green mini-van. The image is looking west. Oh, someone asked once if those were telephone poles in an image where the Pathfinder was in it. Nope, they are two antenna that stick up from the car.

I share the next image to give a perpespective of the depth of the snow (not much) and then I'll follow it to show that it wasn't muddy at all in the car. The dust is still there Joe and the dirt under the snow was as dry as can be. With the ground cover I use under the scope and the ground cover Mat uses, our scopes and the rocker boxes would have been just fine without the usual layer of dust on them that this site is famous for! Looking at it maybe some areas had a 1/2 inch of snow.

This image just shows the dirt that I kicked up from under the snow and how dry it is.

Here is an image as twilight begins to fade and if you look carefully, you can see my headlights:

As darkness was falling in, Mat and I talked and discussed about observing, and about other things and areas we may try. We swapped stories about Tule Fog since we both have lived in the Central Valley of California. That was ironic because on UT111 right as we left the city of Magna at about 5400 West we ran into a very thick fog that lasted until around 7200 West. Well as Mat and I talked, the darkness fell and this is what it was like:

Dark skies at last, too bad they are so clouded over. I have to say though that being out in the West Desert with a layer of stratus level clouds, with frost on the sagebrush and a small dusting of snow on the ground, fit the season quite well. It was quite there, no sounds of animals as the cows were a good ways south of here. A stillness was in the air, one that I wish I could have had the opportunity to view in and enjoy as I just love that and it was here. Nature's hush, not even a whisper. So that was the treat this afternoon. Not a fun night of two serious observers observing, but the sharing of an experience, a drive that allowed think time (I love long drives) and the opportunity to take some pictures and share of what the site looked like on this almost winter day. I hope that all of us have a clear sky or two during December's new moon.

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