On January 28th, 2010, a friend and fellow observer Shahid sent me a text message and asked if I wanted to observe. Clear Sky Clock said it would be good . . . but I knew from the night before that though it may start off great, we have an inversion (see my earlier post on what this is) and as a result, a thick ground fog forms unless your 2000 feet above the valley floor. Desperate to observe though, I decided to give it a try.
So as I loaded up the Pathfinder I took some pictures. The images you'll see is just my stuff. When Shahid got here, we had talked about car pooling, and not trusting his van, we loaded his Z12, tube and base, and his other stuff into my Pathfinder. So what you'll see is again, just my stuff, but know by consolidating this really well, and breaking down my base completely, we actually had more than enough room and with some more care, a tent, sleeping bags, and other camping stuff could have fitted into my Pathfinder. It would have been filled up, but it is possible. Here are the pictures.
The first thing I put in is a base board without the legs attached and that has some carpet on top. I'll use this if the ground is wet or muddy, or if I am going to a place that can dew easily. Pit n Pole meets these requirements so in it goes. The two pillows I got at my school from a teacher who was going to throw them away and I use them to buffer stuff to prevent scratching and dents, and then if needed, I have a couple of comfortable pillows to put my head or or as I usually do, I use one as a pillow and since these are soft and body length, I use one to give me some cushion if I am laying in the back trying to sleep after a LONG night of observing.
Next I put the round base in. I take the base out of my office where I store the XX14i in two pieces. The round base, and then the top part of the base. This prevents any beating up, dents or scratches from the base (learned the hard way on that).
Next you can see the top portion of the base after I set it down, and hooked up the intelliscope cores. All I have to do now is connect the 3 side knobs on the left and right side, and the two front knobs to the round base and the base is together. I do this at home in the driveway so that when I get to my observing site, I can simply unload the base and it is ready to go. Since I did not take pictures of the load at the site, I'll say that I do the opposite after loading the base (sometimes I do it on the ground unless its really dirty or muddy before I load it in the Pathfinder or car). This allows the two base parts to be ready to be taken inside without beating them up in the doors.
Here is the base completely assembled, loaded, and ready to go.
This is the bottom tube in its case. I have brought it out using a handcart, a Magna Cart from Sam's Club and a bungee cord that secures the entire thing to the cart. On the base I use a piece of 1/2 inch plywood on the bottom to give the scope a base to sit on while transporting it on the Magna Cart. The plywood was cut and given to me by a good friend named Craig. In the image below you can see a 1/2 inch and a 1/4 inch piece of board; the large one is what I use if I am moving it outside, the smaller one is for moving it from the office to the back door. From the back door I simply carry it. I never carry the bottom tube down the two stairs I have in the front or in the back of the house.
Also, about 1/2 the time, I simply carry the bottom tube from my office, and out to the Pathfinder or the Altima to load it. I usually stop about halfway to give the old back a break. Either way works, just depends how much time I have or want to give to moving the scope. Do I want to be smart and have some help or do I want to show that at 45, almost 46, I still can move this on my own. Once outside it goes down gently next to the driver's side passenger door.
Once on the ground, I simply lift it up using the truss pole mounts on the lower tube assembly and load the bottom tube into the Pathfinder. I have never had a problem doing this, and I am middle age, overweight man. I will say though that since August I have been lifting weights for tone and strength four times a week and that has helped a lot. In the front pocket of the lower tube is my Telrad extension, this is where I keep the Intelliscope cables, the altitude tension knobs are in a zip lock bag so they don't fall out and I lose the washers. In the field or backyard, when I have put the altitude knobs on, I use the zip lock bag to store the caps for my finderscope and the cap for the eyepiece tube. Helps so I don't lose them. I also keep the shroud in the front pocket.
After loading the lower tube, the hard part of loading the XX14i is over. The base isn't hard for me, by taking it out in two pieces that mitigates its weight for me. The lower tube is the beast, and is probably what will stop some people from purchasing this scope. Here I have loaded the truss poles in their bag between the lower tube and the front seat. In my case in my older Pathfinder, its a natural fit here, nice and snug and not going anywhere. The upper assembly is loaded next to the lower tube in what would be the middle seat position if I had the seats up. Just so you know, I have loaded all of this with the backseats up. The bottom tube sits where it is, the truss poles go on the floor and the upper cage sits on top of them, though is is done on the passenger side for more room. Here's what the XX14i looks loaded up so far from the rear. Hard to see the truss poles but they are there. The big light brown thing over the passenger seat is my winter parka that I use for observing.
Here I have loaded the two most important things to observe with (one more critical thing after this image). The silver case is my eyepiece case, and next to that in the black case are my collimation tools, my finderscope, my Telrad, and my Intelliscope. They fit nicely there.
The last things to go in here is the case that holds my star charts and my printed off star charts and my red flashlights, my digital recorder and copies of my observation sheet. The black bag is that bag, and is pretty important to have. The red tote below it is one from my days about 20 years ago when I sold pharmaceuticals. It now holds the battery pack for the fan, extra batteries, my screw drivers, my sketching lamp, and things of that nature. This is one I could leave at home and just take the essentials. It also has spare parts just in case.
Well, not the last item to go. This is my sketching bag. It has my sketch books and paper, my pencils, my refills, and just about anything that I could need or want to use for sketching (my blending stumps, chamois cloth, erasers (different kinds for different jobs) etc. Note, it is an old Texas Instrument bag that was going to be thrown away and I asked if I could have it and it was given to me. Works like a charm.
Now you can see how these pillows work for me! That is my Starbound Observing chair (a chair is truly needed to observe) and it is the one I use more than the Stardust. I find the seat is more comfortable for me and confirms to my dairy aire than the Stardust. I have never slipped or fallen on my Starbound and I am a big guy. Before the pillows I used a towels or a blanket to cover up but with the pillows, I don't worry so much when the road gets rough as I know there is some cushion there.
Here you can see one of my two tables that I take into the field with me, and I use the other pillow to buffer them from the base. Again, I never have had a problem doing this and it really helps to buffer the items.
Other items I have loaded and not in this image. Well, what you see is what I take for a trip within an hour or so of home when I know I'll be back that night or at the latest, home early the next morning after taking a nap. I have also taken a nice card table that I use, and that usually sits under the base on the board I have there. I take that for those times when I know I am going to be observing and staying at the site for a couple to several days. I will also take a tent, anywhere from a 8 person tent we own to a two person tent we own (usually the two person tent). I have to sleep diagonally in the two person tent but it isn't bad. Often I'll just load up the scope and put the cases in the front seats, leaning the tables and the observing chair against the car and then sleep in the back. If I am staying I have a small gas stove I take and a cooler since I have the gluten free diet I have to maintain. I usually always take a sandwich, a piece of fruit and plenty to drink (water) when observing. That goes in a small lunch sack/cooler and a thermos that I own (or water bottles if I am going to be done for a couple of days).
Doing it this way allows me to bring a passenger along, or as I did last night, I can tear the base apart and fit a Z12 or a 10 inch along with all my stuff into my Pathfinder. If I left this to my daughter, it would fit snug as a bug with LOTS more room. I tend to space things out and not be concern with space. Like I said, I have put far more into my Pathfinder.
So I hope this may help a few who wonder who much space the actual scope takes up. I'm a pack rat and take a lot of stuff with me because that is how I am. Some of you would take far less and have far more room than I.
I am hoping to get a session or two in next week as the inversion should lift. Before the sky went to pop last night, I did manage to see Sirius and the Pup last night and will post a sketch on it. Also, my friend Shahid took pictures with his DLR camera and he will be sending me copies and you can see how the fog monsters came out and got us on Friday night. It was rather weird, almost like a Stephen King moment. We kept teasing each other about the fog creatures coming out of the mist and getting us or taking our equipment.
Here you can see the XX14i and the Z12 set up and what went from totally clear to the fog monsters coming in within about 20 minutes. Image from my friend and fellow observer, Shahid. Notice how well you can see this fog/smog in the top portion of the screen. I could see it forming in the distance and then it creep-ed in quickly, and silently.