Yes,it finally happened…..I observed from a dark site!!!.
So far this has been the observing/imaging event of the season for me.After a summer full of rain and clouds,we were blessed with some of the clearest skies I have seen in almost a year.
Last week Mike from Mountwashingtonvalleyastronomyinvited me to a incredibly dark site located in the White mountain national forrest for a evening of observing.Words cannot describe the beauty of the heavens that I had the pleasure to experience.Having always observed from a light polluted site,I never truly had the opportunity to see the night sky through my scope.Until this weekend that is.I arrived fashionably late as usual but,still early enough to relax and enjoy a couple adult beverages and get the scope set up.Not being use to the absolute quiet,I was abit disturbed…in a good way!!.The only noise I could hear was the slight rustle of the tree’s from a northerly breeze and the chirps from the native crickets.The temps were warm and the humidity was dropping,which meant that the skies were going to get even cleaner.As the night sky approached,I couldn’t help but,to compare the sky from this site to the night sky that I am used to.The sky in the mountains at 8pm were better than the clearest night at 2am in the city where I observe from and only got better.By 10pm I was in a state of shock as many thousands of stars filled the sky.To put it in another way,I can find the Ring nebula with very little difficulty when I observe from the middle of town.At the dark site I couldn’t find it….heh because,their were so MANY stars filling the eye piece.I didn’t get as much observing in as I wanted due to the fact that I just kept bouncing the scope from one object to another.One of the most amazing sights that I saw was M51.Believe it or not this was the actual first time that I have ever seen it through my scope.Some of you might be thinking huh?….but Andrew….you have pictures to prove that you have seen it…they are even posted on your blog?!.Well,this is true Buuutt,I can’t see M51 from the city so,the images that I have taken are slew to the galaxy and aquire images by the seat of my pants.Yay,I saw it!!!.What a remarkable sight it was too.I would have taken some shots but,as fate would have it,it was setting behind some tree’s 😦 !. So,after the ooh’s and ah’s I slewed the scope to the Sunflower galaxy (which I have seen in with the scope) and again,it was incredibly bright.Ok ok…take a deep breath!.Again,this was yet another object setting behind some tree’s.Can you tell I was bouncing around the sky?. No?.Ok,my next selection were the galaxies M81 and M82.Cover your ears…WOW!!!!!!.These galaxies were so intense looking,I could easily see structure.Why didn’t I try to image them?.I don’t know!.My next stop was the Dumbbell nebula.Once again,I could easily see the whole structure.I tried to image it with the DSI but,for some reason my scope didn’t want to track too well.Well,I know why now.I will save that story for some other time.Did I mention that it was crystal clear?.I was able to see the Double cluster and Andromeda…..without optical aid!!!.Being northerly objects they are usually obscured by the city lights so,seeing them with the naked eye was like visiting old friends that I haven’t seen in a long time.I did manage to get some images but,again my tracking was off a bit so,I didn’t get very long exposures.Below is a shot that I took of Andromeda.I had the ISO set pretty high (because the tracking was off) and I wanted to get as much detail as possible but,ended up getting lots of noise.
Hope you like it?.