A Friday afternoon e-mail got me scrambling for plans to be at our club's dark-site on Saturday. The chairperson of the dark-site committee asked that all interested parties show up on Saturday for a Dark-site yard work party. There was mowing and trimming and digging to do to get the site ready for the observing season. I frequent this place on clear weekends for two reasons: No.1 it is dark. I can see the Milky Way. No. 2 it is quiet as not many folks come out there from the club, save a handful of people.The bonus was it was a New Moon and clear skies. I called my wife and secured leave from the house for Saturday ( I asked if"WE" had plans for this weekend) Well "We" did not so I was free to do what I wanted to do.
I stayed up late Friday night so I would be able to observe for a long time Saturday night. That really works great if you stay asleep into the late morning on Saturday. Damn Circadian rhythm, I got up at 5:00 AM and could not go back to sleep! I had to repair my Tripod so I went to Lowe's and bought a couple of Metric bolts. I went back to the house and fixed it.I had some company business to do first and off to the Dark-site with a truck full of tools. I did not want to put my scope and extras in the same bed as sledgehammers spikes and shovels so I decided to drive the 2 hour drive (one way) twice this day.That is the price you pay to try and keep your equipment looking good. I got to Dark-site by 12:30 and began to dig a drainage ditch then trim the place. There were exactly two members there including me. and one neighbor that kind of keeps an eye on the place. We did get the place looking good. The day was shaping up to be a special time.
I ran back to the House(2 hours) grabbed my scope, my son and all the bells and whistles to get the most out of a new moon Saturday night! Cole took the night off from chasing girls to be with dad and to look at some very cool stuff in the scope. I could hardly wait for night. I rushed loading gear I even brought a Radio! and off we went into adventure mode. We drove out to the dark-site and began to unpack and setup. The standing rule is I will handle the scope/ tripod. Cole handles the other gear. Cole has been with me on every star party outing so he know what is what. I get the scope together and Cole asks me" hey Dad where is the silver case?" Those were the words I dreaded. I was sunk before boarding the ship.... The aforementioned case contained my hand control, my computer cable so I could run Nexremote Oh yeah it gets better, my Telrad, my scope cover and my Charts and maps. So essentially I was crippled and blinded in one fell swoop and I was 4 hours away from having it on site. as you can see I am so happy about this. Look at the picture to the left. Oh thank you may I have another one sir!!! So Time to regroup and start finding the path forward. I will use my scope tonight as a very short Dobsonian mounted scope with no Finder. Well now that was easy... What could I look for with no finder that might impress the boy and me. Please keep in mind I think a pencil with an eraser on the back of it is impressive. Cole likes to be wowed... I noticed my good pal and fellow astro guy, Pat Freeman was having his own problems. He had set his scope up too close to the lift gate of his minivan. So... He had to jump through many hoops during the night to get images from his NEW Cannon D50. I said to my son, " Hey it could be worse. It could be raining." Now if I had forgot my eyepiece case....Game over. The solution as to what to look at without having a finder? The Virgo/ Leo galaxy groups. OK this will be fun. While waiting for Dark thirty, we looked at Saturn for a while. Well hey diddle diddle we got company. The family that had helped earlier in the day came out dragging their 5" Meade Newt. Cool I thought the more the merrier...
These folks were Huge fans of the Creationist museum located in Northern Kentucky. So much so, they wanted to evangelize the world about it starting with Pat and myself. Enough said about that. We have an ailing 27" dob on site that the club has tried to get collimated several times. (mirrors aligned with each other and the eyepiece) I suspect it might be in the grind but regardless it is a sick little puppy right now.The kids were hoping to get a look through it. They were told the scope is sick number one and number two no one is here to operate it, but that did not stop them from asking 4 more times. Kids... It was an interesting twist to the evening. So after seeing that Pat and I were not ready to be card carrying creationists, they packed it in for the evening. The family were good folks to be sure. They did leave me with a couple of pamphlets that killed all known laws of physics/astrophysics to date...That was a fun read.
OK it is real dark and time to go hunting them thar galaxy. There were some I could identify because of where they were, say in Leo, the "Triplet" and another trio but when you start getting into the Virgo cluster it is another cup of tea. You got me without a map, or Telrad. I was kind of lost in that melee of galaxy bliss. That night I located about thirty galaxy which was way cool considering my plight. Pat worked through his woes and got some great comparison shots of the D20 and the D50. I hope to see the finished product soon. So what is the Moral to this story? Make a list of stuff to take... and use it:) Set your scope up so it does not eat your vehicle. lastly there is a time and a place for everything. But hey! what does not kill us will make us stronger or smarter hopefully ... until the next time. My son Cole said he had a great time. Well there you go!
Clear skies and great seeing too
(and all your equipment with you)