Tonight in my backyard, I had myr AR102 out and my 14" dob for to show off some of the late summer and early fall items to the neighborhood. I got set up and forgot how smooth the motions are in my 14" dob. Azmuith is incredibly smooth and I need to adjust one thing in the Altitude (clean the pads) to restore those motions.
After it was all done, my 22 year old son came out in the backyard and spent the rest of the evening identifying objects with me. He lived in Italy, mainly Rome and south of Rome for about 2 years and has been back for about 18 months from there. He works and goes to school full time right now so his schedule often doesn't allow for him to observe with me. In the past, before his time in Italy, he would join me and help out at Star Parties running one of my scopes and sometimes going observing with me. He is actually quite able with a scope.
This night I started with the typical summer objects. M13 came up first and he viewed it and said "Ah, the Great Glob in Hercules." I found out quickly he still knew his constellations. We then went to M57 and he easily identified it as the Ring Nebula. I expected to hear "One Ring to Rule them All" which is how we typically have identified that object in the past. Next up, M31 and friends and he took one look and said Andromeda which will join us in about 7 Billion years to make Milkomeda which reminds me of that old product, Milk of Magnesia.
After this I went over to Cassiopeia and he identified NGC 457 which to him is the Owl Open Cluster and we talked how the two eyes remind him of an owl. He then shared with me that we have an Owl living in the one of the pine trees behind our home which I didn't know. I thought I had caught some views of the owl at times but I am glad to have one near our home. After this my son easily identified the Double Double and Alberio and we ended up looking at the moon and blinding our non observing eye for a few moments after viewing it.
We then comapred views from the 14" with its premium secondary mirror and premium Zambuto mirror and moved to the AR102 and compared views. We discussed on the Moon was impacting the night sky and finished out night by packing up.
My son, a man in his own right, has always said he wanted my astronomy equipment when the day comes I cannot use it or I depart this existence. I realized tonight that yep, if he has time, he knows how to use each piece of equipment I own, from each telescope to my eyepieces, to collimation tools, to everything. What he may not know he will learn by doing. My hope is that when those days come as he uses the equipment, he is reminded of the time we spent together and perhaps he'll think of me and us. That is a comforting thought, a nice thought and one that I enjoy thinking about.
See for me, what I did tonight, sharing with my son, exchanging with my son, that is what is the most important to me. If you can't tell, I not only love my son, I like my son, I respect my son, I admire my son and my son in my opinion, will be a better man than I am. It should be that way. So if you have the time to observe with a loved one in the light polluted, moon polluted back yard, please don't hesitate, do it. The memories and discussions you make will remain with you and perhaps as mine are, remembered to be the best observing nights ever. Why? because we shared and exchanged together with others we love and who love us. THAT to me, is perhaps the greatest gift astronomy has ever given to me.
I love my dark skies, I love observing there. I love my faint fuzzies, and I love squeezing out details out of extremely faint objects. I like getting scared just a tad when I hear a noise when I am by myself I haven't heard before and as my rational mind takes over and runs through what that is. I love discovering and learning so much about this hobby. Yet it is the people I have observed with that linger with me, that I remember, that I miss if they no longer come and that I value and treasure. Don't worry about all the lists or items/objects you want to see. Don't worry about all you may want to learn and do. Sometimes, in the quiet of your own backyard, observe with someone you care about and just simply enjoy the experience, enjoy the views and truly enjoy each other. That is the best "magic" that happens with this hobby.
I decided to post this information because I realize I need to become a LOT better at tracking the darkness of the sites and locations I use to observe. Hopefully this will reaveal a trend in light pollution or darkness and help me and others in the area to know where to go and observe on a regular basis. I also need to enter into the SQM database or my database there the readings I have taken for the last couple of years while observing. They are found typically on my sketches and in a log I keep in a small spiral notebook I keep with the meter. I am not going to get into the meters or explain how they work here. If you want to do that I encourage you to go to the Unihdedron website at this LINK or the Dark Sky Meter website at this LINK. I have to state since upgrading to the iPhone 6 plus my Dark Sky Meter app hasn't worked correctly which is expected as the app works with the iPhone 5c and 5s models. Time to upgrade the app I believe.
Here is the data I have entered for my observing sites on the Unihedron site:
The locations on the site are Elizabeth Ridge which I do not have a Dark Site Meter reading for; Pit n Pole which I do have readings for; Vernon Forest Road 006 Juniper Grove Site that I do have readings for; my backyard which I do have readings for and that is all. So here are the Dark Sky Meter Map readings from the map.
Three of the readings, the top three above show readings taken on September 12th, 2015 of 21.88 and 21.82. Another reading from August 15th 2015 shows a reading of 20.71 which is an abnormality as the DSM phone app and the SQM L show readings at this site averaging in the 21.8 range. The fourth reading of 21.77 was taken at the site FR006 Owl's Roost site as was taken on June 29th 2015 and shows the impact of the summer Milky Way. There is also just a tad more ambient light (extremely minor) visible at FR006 Owl's Roost vs Juniper Grove since the grove of Juniper's blocks all ambient light from the town of Vernon to the north. These readings seem to agree though there are far too few to make that ensure. The Vernon Observing Site is rated as a Class 1 Bortle area (SQM lists it as a Class 1), though depending on conditions it could be upper Class 2 Bortle. Link 1 Link 2 Personally, I don't use the Bortle System but it provides a guide to what your seeing at a dark site. I believe sites transition to what they are, as in FR006 a site 1 to a level below, site 2 depending on sky conditions, weather patterns etc.For me, the FR006 has allowed me to see on a regular pattern the following items in terms of visibility; the zodiacal light with color and up to 60 degrees; the gegenschein, and the "Dark Horse" section of the summer Milky Way.
Zodiacal Light Link (this is how I have seen it out at FR006) Wikipedia LINK
gegenshchein That light band going diagnol from the Milky Way in the image. Explanation Wiki
Dark Horse Section Milky Way Example/Image LINK 1 (circled) LINK 2
Challenge: Next time you go to a Rural or darker site, see if you can see these items when they are available.
The readings above from the Faust road of 20.72 and 20.55 are slightly less than the readings I have in the 21.2 range for Pit n Pole. At Pit n Pole though my readings are taken with the SQM L pointed south, the darkest part of the sky there, while the DSM is pointed up and there is significant light pollution to the northeast and east here. The direction and narrowness of the SQM L is the difference for the reading here I believe. Pit n Pole is a Class 3 Bortle Site.
Here is my house.
The SQM L readings in my backyard are in the 19.5 to 19.6 range, low 19.6. The SQM readings are 19.69, 19.69, 19.24, 19.15. You can get the dates above and times for that impact on the images. For me this again is consistent for the tool, though more data points would be needed. My house is a Class 5 Bortle, sometimes transitions to a Class 6 Bortle as more homes fill into the area.
Overall I prefer to use my SQM L for readings as I can measure specific parts of the sky and even at home, the southern horizon is darker than the northern or eastern because of where I live in the Salt Lake Valley. Kinda of cool though to see how an hour drive to the southwest greatly enhances the darkness of one's site. I'm spoiled.