What’s In My Truck

Looking north my truck rapidly unloaded. Fields almost empty and Abby’s just happy to have arrived. Click for larger cropped version.

Almost everything is unloaded from my truck the evening I arrived at Okie-Tex. I took this picture because some people have asked why it takes me so long to get ready for the star party. It takes me a good week to collect, verify and pack everything in their cases or carriers.

I was inspired to post this after seeing Jerry’s  What’s in my Bag article. Seeing his spread of equipment I’m guessing he carries a bit more than I do. What I love about Jerry’s picture is you see whats in all the cases. That’s whats in my cases, except I don’t need jar openers 🙂  There are a lot of parts and pieces to being an astrophotographer.

This 2018 trip I was traveling pretty light, around 700lbs of gear. Ensuring you have everything needed for the trip and carefully packing it away takes time. The last thing you want being far from home is finding your missing a special cable or adapter.

Great Okie-Tex Cloud Out

 
The Okie-Tex Star Party ended a week ago running Oct 6th through October 14th. Timing couldn’t have been worse for the weather this year. And I’ve been to almost every Okie-Tex since they moved the event to Camp Billy Joe in 1999. This being my 18th trip to the Oklahoma pan handle its never been so bad weather wise. Cloudy, drizzle on many days, rain and lightning storms on some, hailed one afternoon, and just more clouds day after day.
 
Can’t even see Black Mesa through the low clouds
There was not a single night that it was clear for more than a few hours. I have to base some of that on my friends reports as I left early. Really early, like Monday evening. It was obvious after two days of drizzle and rain it wasn’t going to get any better. And it didn’t.
 
That said I did get to experience the reason I drive out here every year. As part of the setup crew I arrived Thursday evening and that night was one of the best I’ve seen in some time. It was a visual treat, the sky was crystal clear, the milky way blazed in all its glory, meteors darted across the sky. As I had nothing setup I just laid back in my chair and enjoyed a pristine night sky for hours and hours.
 
Was that Thursday night special simply because I hadn’t been in a class 1 Bortle sky in a year? No, not exactly. This is the water vapor image for Thursday night, about 4am Friday morning:
 
Red-Orange is dry air

There was an exceptionally dry air mass sitting over the region. So dry the next day as we setup the field the temperature shot up to the low 90s with a relative humidity of 14%. Desert like conditions, I couldn’t drink enough water. Friday night was pretty good, almost like Thursday but with a few more clouds, black shapes in the sky, floating through getting thicker after midnight.

Its unfortunate those that came Saturday never experienced the Okie-Tex skies. After talking with Tim and Chuck it seems this year’s star party was much like 1998, that year was cloudy the entire week also. Lets hope this cloud out only happens once every twenty years.

Great American Eclipse

A peek at the eclipsed sun, clouds obscuring the view (click for bigger)

Wow what an interesting past few days its been. I got to see the eclipse! Unfortunately I didn’t get to experience its full grandeur.  My spot in Nebraska had persistent cloud issues and the very moment of totality a swath of low level clouds moved over the sun. Yes nearly the exact moment. Unbelievable. I saw the hole in the sky for just a few seconds. There was never a chance I’d see the sun’s corona in its full glory.

I have very mixed emotions as I write this tonight.

Happy experienced the approach of totality, the sun and moon slowly converging. The sudden darkness that fell as totality started and the surreal twilight like horizon all around me. The perceived shortness of the event (what! two and a half minutes can’t have just passed!).

Yet I’m also a bit sad I didn’t get to experience the complete spectacle, the sight of an eclipsed sun in a clear dark sky. I didn’t get to see the corona in its full glory nor any planets appear.

It will take me awhile to get over this. Seven years until the next American eclipse.

 

Full Moon

Its the evening of August 7th and we’re just a few hours past full moon. Two weeks until the new moon and the big eclipse show. Thankfully it wasn’t today because cloud cover was an issue around 13:00 CST this afternoon:

ICT Infrared Satellite Image

Hopefully weather pattern will turn better in coming days. By better I mean return to normal hot dry conditions. Can’t believe I’m saying that with nice cool air right now

Star Dog

Today I lost the best dog I’ve ever had. She happily spent nights outside with me as I worked the observatory or watched for meteors. For the past two years she came with me to the Okie-Tex Star Party. Lucy was a star dog if there ever was one.

Lucy lies on the grass listening to Chuck and I ramble at the 2014 Okie-Tex star party.

She was the finest dog I’ve ever have had. None have ever been more devoted than her. Whats funny is I didn’t pick her, a dear and special friend brought her home and Lucy chose me.

We’ve had almost nine years of fun and adventure. I’m deeply saddened by her passing but I’m glad it happened so quick. Just last night we were out back looking at the stars together, well, she was hunting around while I looked at the stars. Then all of a sudden, from this morning to this afternoon she slipped away.

We haven’t had much snow so far this year. Lucy loved being out hunting in the snow, like this from two years ago:

Lucy Hunting

Tonight around midnight the constellation Canis Major will pass over Lucy’s grave. She truly was the “greater dog”.

Update Thursday 1/22: I woke up without my companion. Last night a friend sent me the OTSP picture above

The first morning without my girl feels just as bad as the moment I lost her yesterday. Every morning for the past few years she was my alarm clock. The moment she heard me stirring she came over by the bed, her wagging tail thumping against the wall. She would nudge my arm with her nose. I always smiled, how can you not?