Weekend Under the Stars, July 28 - 30, 2011

I always look forward to WUTS.  It's close to home, I know several people there, skies have little to no light pollution, and the weather is generally cooperative. 

The area is very popular with ATV'ers and they use the area the Forest Service gives the star party for camping and parking.  A couple folks were a little miffed that we had the area reserved and they had to go elsewhere this weekend, however the riders that come through are usually very considerate of other users.  Some will come back at night and enjoy the views.

Every astro interest is present this year.  Several solar scopes, both white light and Ha, even one gent with a solar spectrascope.  High dollar equipment shares the space with rough homebrew items.  Gary with his 30" always draws a crowd.  Novices with budget scopes learning and sharing from folks with the latest GOTO items.  It always amazes me how it is less about what you bring than how enthusiastic you are.

Randy Cunnigham had his booth setup.  He had a nice selection of his Astro-Systems items and the highlights of the Televue eyepiece line.  Good thing I don't take a credit card with me or a new Ethos or two might have found a home.  I did see several new items carried away, including another Telrad for me...

Mosquitos were horrible.  It has been wet enough this year that swarms of them hit you as soon as you step out.  A lot of OFF and various noxious preparations were employed with limited success.  When you finally beat off the mosquitoes, the horse flies moved in.  You actually found that you wanted the wind to blow, just for some bug relief.  It's a good thing that once the sun sets the bugs mostly go away too.

Green lasers!  Hey, I have one too, but please, please keep them at home for star parties.  At times the observing fields looked like something from Star Wars, seems everyone had one and had to use it, frequently.  Several folks also had them setup as finders.  I had several astro image frames spoiled by a flash of light through it, and yes a laser looks much different than a meteor/satellite/airplane in a frame.

Wednesday

The star party doesn't officially start until Thursday, but there are always several folks that go up as early as Tuesday.  There were about 15 camps setup when we arrived.  It was warm and breezy, but much cooler than the temps we had left behind in Loveland.   The afternoon was mostly cloudy, several times looking like rain, but it kept moving through.  Solar observing took place through and around the clouds.  Evening found it cool and still, unfortunately it was also mostly cloudy.  The evening was spent reading.

Thursday

A very nice cool day.  Partly to mostly cloudy kept the temps down.  Just enough breeze to make long pants desirable.   The evening cleared and the sky was fantastic.  I couldn't get my setup to behave, something had angered it.  Dunno if it was me, the mount, something the guider was doing, or heaven forbid a Windows issue.  About midnight we gave up and went to bed.

Friday

Pretty much an exact copy of Thursday.  Really enjoyed the cooler weather after the HOT summer we have had on the Front Range.  More solar observing when the clouds behave.  A group went and toured the U of Wyo observatory at JELM.  Evening had a sky tour presentation for novices, though many others also attend. 

Late afternoon found the clouds leaving like a posse was after them and by dark the seeing was fantastic.  I put a Telrad on the scope to ease initial alignments, I love the Telrad on my 18" so I figure it has to help on this.  The Meade finder is such a POS that getting to alignment stars is always a challenge, now that the tube is on a GEM it is even tougher to twist around to look through it.   Whatever angered my system last night has disappeared; I get it aligned and imaging in quick order.  It hit everything I slewed to, guider calibrated right up and everything ran flawlessly.  I ran a 100 minute image of M-51, then I swung around to the Tadpole.  After an hour on it, I cold soaked and gave up.  Hey, it was 2:30 AM and everything was covered in frost (got a thermometer setup today, tonight it is 28). 

While the scope and camera was doing its thing, I wandered around some other scopes, visited and viewed.  About 2:00 AM, I found myself on top of the ladder looking through Gary's 30" at Stephan's Quintet.  I always enjoy the views, however, me, dark, and tall ladders are a bad thing so I don't do it very often, but WOW!.  Gary tells of occasionally accidentally hitting a slew command when on the ladder and getting knocked off...

Saturday

Much clearer and much warmer today.  Several folks leave early, wonder how they knew it would be a bad night.  Evening was clear, when all of a sudden it got very hazy at ground level and it never went away.  Early evening the Northwest was hazed out, so I pointed the scope South and started an image on M-16.  After an hour it was gone, pretty soon everything was gone.  I went in the trailer and read for a bit, about midnight I stepped out and could just make out a bright, fuzzy dot where Vega should be. 

Presentation this year was on ARP galaxies and a decent door prize selection.  We didn't go to either, it was just too comfy sitting in the shade napping.

Next Year!

16-18 August, 2012.  See you there!

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