Five nights, can we get a straight? Thursday evening is the Great Okie Tex Star Party Giveaway (part one). To my surprise I won a red led flashlight and to the delight of the crowd they were yelling ?how-ward?. This yell started years ago after a couple of high school girls looking for their science teacher were wandering up and down the field. It has continued ever since and is probably very puzzling to a newbie. Rumor has it that the yell happens at the Texas Star Party (TSP).
The night started good and I decided to add exposures to my Cave Nebula image (Sh2-155). Wind was a bit stronger than any of the previous nights but manageable for my setup. I had just started a new target, vdB14, when low clouds began appearing in the east. This was about 1:00am. I checked the infrared satellite images to see how long this would last. It was not showing anything, I?m guessing it was low level moisture that flowed into the area. In little time we were covered over. And in little time I went to sleep.
While I would have preferred to keep imaging, a little break to catch up on sleep was also a good thing. It turns out that it cleared up at 4:00am and a few of the true die-hards were up observing.
Four straight nights of good to great weather! It?s interesting how sky conditions vary at night. To the untrained eye it may not seem like anything is different. But to us astronomers we note the change in transparency, objects do not have as high a contrast, the sky does not seem as dark. The seeing, or how steady the air is, can vary tremendously as well. These conditions are not mutually dependant or exclusive, truly great nights are clear, transparent and steady.
During analysis of the images from Wednesday night I found that many of the later exposures were affected by thin high level clouds. I decided to reshoot IC417 and NGC6914. Up until now I had not had any user mistakes or glitches while imaging, which is unusual for me. Tonight I had a few dumb ones, like the camera control cables hanging up on the mount midway through an exposure. That?s just being sloppy and it?s possible I just haven?t got enough sleep.
During the night I climbed partway up the side of the mesa to our north west. There I placed a camera that continuously took exposures for awhile. This was a test of an idea I have been kicking around for the past two years, to try and capture both the stars and activity on the field. After two hours I retrieved the camera. I found that coming down a hill at night is far harder than going up. It was also interesting to find that the temperature thirty or forty feet higher than the observing field is significantly warmer.