The 28th Okie-Tex star party ran from September 24th through October 1. I’ve attended twelve of those years at Camp Billy Joe and this year seemed the driest. Like all of Oklahoma the area has been in exceptional drought conditions. It looked and felt like it. Yet dry conditions are a good thing for astronomy, low moisture means clear skies.
The forecast prior to the event was very promising: clear every day. But an odd thing happened, we got stuck in a weird weather pattern being partly cloudy the first nights of the star party. Visual observing was possible but not astrophotography.
This picture from Sunday night shows clouds obscuring the milkyway (click to embiggen). I did find it interesting to watch the clouds cross the sky. They were black, something you only see where its truly dark. Fortunately that pattern changed.
Tuesday was our first night clear until the end of darkness. The morning Zodiacal light was an excellent sight. My last night, Friday, was the best night sky I saw all week.
Pictured on the left is my scope setup ready to go as the moon sets (click to enlarge). By the early morning hours, around 4:00am, we had the darkest of skies. But a few hours before that I had big trouble with my equipment. I stopped tracking, unbelievably my RA motor had malfunctioned. More amazing though is I had a spare motor with me and fixed everything inside 45 minutes. Talk about being prepared.
I’ve got many hours of imaging time invested in one target, LBN524. Just starting to process that data and I hope to have an image soon. This year I ended up in exactly the same spot camping as last year. Interestingly I had the exact same neighbors as last year. Good company, decent weather, dark skies, it was a good star party.