A Shower and A Comet

October 21st was the peak of the Orionid meteor shower. It was cloudy in my area until Sunday so I missed the main show. This is unfortunate, the activity reported this year by various observers on mailing lists described higher than normal activity. That increase is confirmed by a report in the Meteor Activity Outlook by Robert Lunsford. From the page:

The Orionids (ORI) put on a fantastic display this past weekend. Rates were three times than what were expected. Rates are still above normal at around 10-15 per hour.”

Sunday night (10/23) Phil and I met in the Flint Hills to catch Comet Swan. We were bothered by clouds all night and I was not successful in getting a good picture. By 1:00 am we were seeing many Orionids, two days after the peak. Clearly the shower had been nice this year.

NGC 6888

New Image: NGC 6888, the Crescent nebula in Cygnus. From the Flint Hills on August 23rd, this is a redo of a shot I did last year at nearly the same time.

This time the sky was better and I exposed much longer. Post processing of this image is also much better than last year. Sky was clear all night but ground fog slowly enveloped the area and we had to quit around 1:00am.

Orionid Meteor Shower

The Oriniod Meteor Shower timing is very favorable this year: the moon is not a factor being new on the 22nd.

This shower is a result of Halley’s comet and is fairly weak with a ZHR of around 20. I watched this shower in 2003 and saw very few meteors; certainly less than I expected.

A Full Moon

Last night was a full moon, the Harvest Moon to be precise. And this year it appeared bigger than normal being at perigee. The sky was very clear and? the moon seemed brighter than usual, a very pretty sight. No pictures, just a visual? experience.

Okie-Tex Star Party 2006

The Okie-Tex Star Party (OTSP) was a mix of clear skies and disastrous weather. In summary I give it three out of five stars. My criteria in evaluating the OTSP always revolves around astrophotography YMMV. Although I love observing the night sky I drive the distance for the chance to photograph in truly dark skies.

I arrived on Saturday, which is early since the star party does not officially start until Sunday. As with last year many others arrived early. Saturday was a nice clear night. The only issue was the moon rise around 3:00am.

I captured exposures for one image Saturday night: Western Veil Nebula, NGC 6960.

Sunday night started clear but as forecast became cloudy. Got an early start and captured some exposures of M16. Monday was a clear night, perhaps our best night for the week. Most of the night was spent acquiring exposures of vdb142, part of a larger nebula IC 1396 in Cepheus.

Tuesday night was windy to very windy and I experienced problem acquiring my target(s) and making things work right. I should have switched to a lighter weight / lower profile setup using Phil’s 300mm Nikon lens – but I didn’t. Frustrating night but I have those occasionally.

Wednesday night clouded up and most of us packed stuff away with a chance of rain in the forecast. This turned out to be a good choice.

Thursday morning the back side of a strong low pressure system swept through the area. Peak wind gusts were reported in the mid 70 mph range. This was no joke as I was in the main star party tent that morning when it was on the verge of failure. Many of us suffered damage; I had my tent poles cracked due to wind stress and my oldest tent was torn. John to the east of me had his metal awning assembly destroyed. Bill to the west of me had his camper severely damaged (although he did a remarkable job repairing it). It was fortunate that we only had wind – had it been wind, rain and lightning things would have been really bad.

This was the worst storm damage I had seen at Okie-Tex in all my years of attendance. In the past strong storms were often followed by excellent nights. Unfortunately that was not the case this year. Thursday night was cloudy. Friday night forecast was for clouds and possibly Saturday was going to be cloudy as well. I left the star party Friday afternoon.

Can’t wait until next year!

Flint Hills: Mini Star Party

New image: M8 Lagoon Nebula, imaged Saturday night, July 22 in the Flint Hills.

A group of us got together and enjoyed a good night of observing and astrophotography. Phil and I were doing astrophotography. Chuck brought his trusty 13 inch dob while Fred and Richard had a new truss tube dob with them. Dan? and Sherry brought a Meade LXD 16 and a 20 inch dob.