Well, I’m getting super-psyched to be going to my first star party, the Rocky Mountain Star Stare, on Wednesday! My car is gonna be pretty full for the trip to sustain me for all 5 days. I’ve already packed all my astro stuff, my camping stuff, my clothes, books, and am now planning my meals. It’ll be almost exclusively cereal, sandwiches, and Diet Dr. Pepper, as there’s no cooking due to drought conditions. Don’t worry, I won’t starve.
Unfortunately, there are currently a couple of big wildfires down south – the “416 Durango” fire has just doubled in size to 22,000 acres overnight, and is only 15% contained. The smoke could have a nasty effect on the sky, depending on which way the wind blows. I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed on that one.
I’m also going to be doing a side trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park during one of the days while I’m down there, on a day when the speaker/lecture activities aren’t as interesting to me. That park has been on my list of places to see out here for a long time now. It looks gorgeous. Yes, I’ll pack lots o’ water.
One of the things that I’ve learned in my lifetime is that planning a vacation is much better than not, and I’m not even talking about reserving hotels and flights and cars and such in advance. No, I’m talking about actually visualizing the vacation – what you’ll be doing, what you’ll be seeing, where you’ll be going. When you pre-plan it like this, you get to live the vacation twice: once in your head, then once again for real.
For an observing session, one of those things to plan, of course, is what you’ll be observing (no duh). I use Stellarium to check what’s out, what’s up, and what I’m going to be able to see. Summer is just about my favorite time to observe, especially the area of the Milky Way that I like to call “Greater Sagittarius”, my favorite area of the sky, so there’s a lot to see!
And therefore, without further ado, I reveal unto you, my observing lists (5 pages, gulp!):
I have tried to keep these (relatively) legible, mostly for your benefit, because I’m looking for your input here. I’m wondering if I’m missing anything I should be trying for with my C9.25. I’ve heard that the sky at RMSS is pretty dark, and the dark site finder confirms this – they’re a medium gray, just one shade off of being “ultimate” dark, and three shades darker than the DAS Dark Site, so I’m hopeful of seeing a lot more than I’m used to. I’ve been told that the Milky Way positively shines down on you there.
Except for the fact that we’re right up against the summer solstice – the shortest night of the year. Dang, the sun doesn’t even set until 8:24pm in Gardner, and astronomical twilight doesn’t end until 10:17pm! And then it starts up again at 3:42am – after only 5 1/2 hours of observing! Yikes! It looks like I’ll havta do some planetary observing early – Jupiter – and late – Mars and Saturn.
So looking over my lists (which I know is asking a lot), any suggestions? Okay, okay, I know no one‘s going to go through 5 pages of my handwriting with a fine-toothed comb. What I’m really asking for is whether there’s anything obvious that I’ve clearly overlooked? Any hidden gems or favorites of yours that you think I should try for with either my C9.25 for deep objects, or my ST-80 for big ones? If it helps, I know I’m going to be staying up waaaay late, until dawn breaks, close to 4am. Also, if it helps in terms of visualizing the sky, the RMSS is at 38 degrees north latitude, 105 degrees west longitude, and 7600 feet in altitude. Hopefully, I won’t be getting any ‘tude at RMSS. (Sorry, I’ll just go sit in the corner now.)
I’d appreciate any advice you have to give me, not just for observing, but for going to my first star party. Thanks! And I’ll see you on the other side.
Before I go, I wanted to share one last thing witcha. I already posted about these on some of the Facebook astronomy pages, so this won’t come as a shock. I’m looking at, drooling over, and ultimately am about to order the Kasai Trading 2.3×40 mega-ultra-super-ridiculously widefield binoculars. On top of the fact that I got a noooooooice fat tax refund, essentially, the last of the Jeopardy money, Turbotax erroneously calculated a tax penalty based on that sudden influx of wealth and the fact that I didn’t pay estimated taxes on it for four months.
So, I got back $198 more than I thought I would. More than enough to cover the cost of the $165 Kasais. Where previously I had been going back and forth on the issue – should I or shouldn’t I? – now, there’s no excuses left with this free money. I was gonna order last week, but didn’t because they probably wouldn’t have arrived until after I left, and I didn’t want these sitting in front of my door for almost a week. I’ll place the order when I get back from RMSS and give you a full review.
Well, not a full review, because Agena already published one with all the nitty-gritty about how the optics work and such. But I’ll let you know how well they work, the increase in magnitude, the size of the field of view, the distortions, etc.