Observing Session, December 23rd, 2011 Lakeside, Utah; Observing in Eridanus and Fornax

On Friday, December 23rd, 2011 I was able to drive out to the Lakeside, Utah site to get in an observing session. Though two days before a storm had driven out the inversion, on the drive out near the city of Tooele you can see that the inversion or what I call smog is already building back. There are a lot of plants out here dumping pollution into the atmosphere and I wish the state would do something but they won't. Not until we realize it is impacting our health and it will be too late for that I fear.

Well, I posted images of the drive out to Lakeside this last time and to contrast that I am going to post images of the drive that I took to observe on December 23rd, 2011. Here is the exit you take off of I-80, exit 62 which will take you out to the observing site. Yes, there is a dusting of snow on the ground out in this area.

This is where my friend Mat was sitting when we drove out in those horrible, cloudy, smog, inversion, fog covered region a week earlier.

This is the turn so you can see the valley and the road that leads out to the observing site. Man, what a difference a week makes!

Here is the road that you drive out nice and straight on. No cows in the road today but plenty of their leftover paddies on the road. So be careful driving out for the wildlife. Plenty of Pronghorn back in the area also. Those stories that others have shared about observing out here and turning around and feeling like your being watched and then to have a herd of cows on you are true!

Right before this sign is a fake cattle guard and then the sign. The sign is your signal to look for the left turn you take onto the dirt road to get to the site.

Here is the left turn you take right after the sign!

This is what the dirt road looked like on this day that your drive shortly down to the observing site.

Here's the right turn which is easy to miss if your not looking for it in the winter as it does look different than in the summer.

This is the first area that someone could set up. Usually ATVers load and unload here though. The snow looks worse than it is. The bad news was that the dust under the snow is there, its just frozen and it stays frozen (its still frozen on my mat I use for ground cover 3 days later!).

This is where I set up for the night.

Here are a couple of shots to let you know conditions really did improve out here . . .

Looking west

Looking east . . .

The XX14i and my friend's Shahid's Z12 set up next to it:

Well because the weekend has been crazy, and yes, because I've had clear skies but I spent the weekend with my family, I just adjusted the color curve on my sketches, didn't touch up my stars, I'm actually okay with most of them and I put the observing information right on the sketches so I am not going to re-post that here on the blog. You can simply click the sketch if you want to see the object and the observing details. I hope that is okay.

The night was cold, and it was colder because the value on my propane tank froze and none of us could get it undone. So I couldn't use my new heater out in the field. I know that would have made a difference this night. My friend Shahid showed up and set up at dusk and after collimating and adjusting we were ready. Another friend Daniel showed up to do some binocular work. Besides getting cold, and having to warm in the cars once for each of us, by 10:00p.m. frost had become a major player again. Once again, I left my dew strips at home but I am very, very happy to report that the Heater/Fan/Defroster I reviewed worked wonderfully. It cleared up the Telrad and the finder scope really quick and if I didn't have a major day on Saturday with family stuff, I could have stayed longer. If you don't have anti dew/frost items, know your going to fight it in Utah during this time of the year.

So without any further ado, here are my sketches from that night. Error, I oriented these so that west is to the left, not the right as labeled on some of these sketches. Overall, I am pretty happy with these sketches. It helped to increase magnification to get the details on the galaxies, and then use a smaller magnification for to capture the star field. I'm also not posting in the order I observed as an FYI.

1. NGC 1332 Edge on Galaxy in Eridanus.

2. NGC 1302 Galaxy in Fornax

3. NGC 1371 or NGC 1367 in Eridanus

4. NGC 1300 Spiral Galaxy

5. NGC 1395 Elliptical Galaxy

So, not a very active night but I had fun, it was great to be out and I can't wait to remember to bring my case and try out the dew heaters and controller in the field!