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6/26/2011

Lakeside, Utah Observing. Lemonade from a Lemon of a Night

Well, I was excited to go out tonight and get observing. The Clear Sky Clock didn't look promising at either Lakeside or at the Pit n Pole locations in the West Desert that we use. Looking at the satellite and since two were already going to Lakeside I decided to go there.

As usual, it is a long 1.5 hour drive out, 72 miles one way for me. I was amazed by the water levels in the Great Salt Lake and the wonderful smell of the Lake was evident. I was trying to drive with my window down because I'm finding for some strange reason this year, I like the feel of the wind on me and the warmth. I only used the a/c when the smell got too bad. I'm usually a cold weather guy, because I have a very high internal temperature, I'm always hot. Anyway, hope that isn't changing with age!

I got out there and an observing friend Troy was already set up with his six inch Celestron and shortly thereafter my observing friend Joe arrived. We began the process of setting up and the sky looked absolutely wonderful. After setting up, our enemy from above began to muster in. Here is the XX14i set up.



















And another shot of the XX14i set up. I collimated the scope using a HoTech collimator, and then checked it with a Catseye Collimation set and it was spot on when I was done. I actually got excited and was trying to convince myself that the clouds would just blow on by . . .




















This is the view looking north with Troy walking toward's Joe setup for Astro-Imaging.


















Another view looking north. I expected to see these clouds as there was a front to the north and the satellite showed it staying up in Idaho. No problem, right . . .


















After collimating the scope I looked up to the southwest. The satellite had showed clouds forming over the mountains on the border of Nevada and Utah, typical in a late summer pattern and when I looked up I saw this:


















I continued to scan to the west and saw this:



















and a little more to the west-southwest was this view:



















Finally, looking east I saw these:



















Well, during setup I noticed I had forgot my AstroSystems cover for the dob, so I opted out of not putting down my blue tarp as a ground cover. I had also forgot the rubber/carpeted mat that I have for observing on also. This was a very fortunate decision on my part. After everyone was set up we went down to Joe's scope and began talking. We talked about another observing companion who was at this very site and had some strange things happen one night. He saw strange lights in the distance in the military area to the north. Heard the coyotes and reported seeing a wolf. Finally he heard someone whispering to him so he packed up and left. That led me to state I usually fear the human animal more than anything and we talked about a trip where a pickup truck sat and watched us for about 45 minutes at this site and then met Joe as he drove into the observing area. At that point Troy commented that he felt a rain drop and Joe confirmed it, and then I felt one.

I rushed back to the scope knowing I did not have time to break her down and with Troy's advice, I put the blue tarp over the dob. It fit perfectly. I then put on the cover on the secondary, put the plug back into the eyepiece holder, and put the caps on the top and lower tubes. We then went back and I used my cell phone to try to identify what was happening with the weather. I access Skippy Sky which really didn't help, and then tried the National Weather Service out of Salt Lake City and that didn't help. Troy recommended Weather.com and that site worked wonderfully on my phone, with some download delays. We got a radar and satellite image that showed larger clouds and rain heading our way. At that time, though we had clear sky above and stars, it rained a summer rain, quick but not too hard, but hard enough I couldn't break down the scope. Troy graciously held the tarp in place well I loaded up what I had brought out. After about 20 minutes the squall passed and I broke down and cleaned up.

There were some sand that had gotten splattered on the base on the lower tube, but nothing on the mirror. So I've cleaned up both, made sure the teflon on the base is good to go and am now home.

So what did I observe? Leo falling fast into the west with Virgo on his heals. Antares and Scorpios were lovely sites and the summer triangle came out to greet us after we had packed it up. It was nice to see Deneb, Altair and Vega in the sky together. I know this week I will be getting out at least two or three times so that helps ease the pain of tonight. More importantly I realized something. It seems like it was just yesterday I was observing Leo high up in the sky and Orion was fading quickly into the west. Now Orion is gone, and Leo is fading quickly. How fast this thing called life is and I've realized that one of the reasons I love observing is that is slows me down. It makes me take in and appreciate this thing called life. For a night, I get to see objects that many don't even know exist, and the objects change by season. Observing reminds me that I need to take time and see the stars/smell the roses and enjoy life, it only happens once. Observing reminds me that keeping a good balance in one's life helps one to be healthy. Here's to finding your lemonade when the clouds make lemon of your observing trip!

Also, if you have a truss dob, have something to cover it with in an emergency. Or better yet, listen to your inner voice when it says break it down instead of holding out hope that the sky will clear. Oh, one other thing I did observe; I got some nice pictures of clouds and of clouds and a sunset.