Observatory Reports

  • 27 Oct 2013 8:27 AM | Anonymous member
    Saturday, Oct 26, 2013
    Canyon of the Eagles (Cancelled) Star Party
    Jim Sheets
    Temp: low 70's
    6:30 - 10:30
    Guests: 60-70
     
    Opened the observatory at 6:30 and prepped the scopes for viewing. The sky was about 20% cloud covered with predicted scattered T-storms on the horizon. By about 7:30 there were well over 50 guests in the building. I had started the program with some Big-screen presentations. Among the group were several kids who were very inquisitive and asked questions constantly. This made it easy to keep the groups attention as I explained and answered these questions. It always amazes me that young minds are like sponges.
     
    By 8:00 pm I counted the crowd again and had 57 in the building. Some had gone and more came later. The weather held off and cloud cover varied from 10% to 30% all evening. There was a storm raging in the NNE with lightning on the horizon.
     
    I did a quick laser sky tour of the constellations and then started showing the sky through the scopes. The Milky-way was visible, we were even able to view M31 with the naked eye, which wowed several guests. We viewed several objects through the scopes.
     
    The crowd thinned until they were all gone by 10:15. The sky had cooperated for the entire evening. For a (cancelled) star party, it was quite successful. Even with cloud cover, an experience at the observatory is a big Plus for most guests.
    It is unfortunate that the AAS does not see the (Out Reach) potential for new members by cancelling when conditions are not ideal.
     
    Jim Sheets, out
     
      
  • 27 Oct 2013 7:38 AM | Anonymous member
    Friday, Oct 18, 2013
    Canyon of the Eagles Star Party
    Jim Sheets
    Temp: 72
    6:30 - 9:30
    Guests: 7
     
    Upon opening the observatory, there was about 80% cloud cover. I sat up the scopes in hopes that conditions would improve. Just before 7:00 a family of 5 arrived and then another couple. We were able to view the Moon and Venus intermittently for a while. Then the sky became completely overcast. The rest of the evening was devoted to using the big-screen for presentations and discussions of several topics.
    The guest all left at 9:15 so I closed the facility and was gone by 9:30.
    Jim Sheets
  • 20 Oct 2013 4:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Canyon of the Eagles Star Party
    Sat. Oct. 19, 2013
    James Hall
    6:30 - 11:30
    Guests: 220

    My brother Jon and I arrived about 6:00 pm.  Temp was 70 degrees and the sky was clear.  We stopped by the front office and found it was going to be a big night with lots off boy scouts and a good occupancy rate at the resort.  

    After getting to the observatory, I noticed one of the large front emblems on the doors was broken and dangling down.  My brother was able to fix it with some tools in the observatory.  Observatory clean, the grounds were well mowed.  Observatory opened and put the Forrest Scope on the sun with solar filter for some guests that arrived early.  But not much solar activity going on other than small sun spot in the 11 o'clock position.

    Jim Sheets dropped by and was a great help all night helping escorting guests to the observatory and helped out periodically with one of the scopes.  

    My brother was also able to get the wireless up and working in the observatory.  We did this by using the wireless router I had donated earlier for the Apple TV. This internal router now also expands the amount of wired connections inside the observatory to 4 hardwired connections as well as wireless.  Now all you have to do when you get in the observatory is turn on the surge protector under the TV and connect to the Wireless ID called "Observatory" and you are good to go.  Jim Sheets and I were able to connect our iPads quickly to it and show multiple astronomy apps wirelessly to the large display in the observatory.  For connecting in the field you will still connect to the original wireless connection that Darin had mentioned earlier.

    Observatory and table lights on.  Scopes turned on and started normal presentation of AAS history, upcoming star parties, and what was planned for the night.  Played several videos on star sizes, how big is the universe, Is Pluto a Planet?, and the black hole in the middle of the milky way.  Then started helping people to the lines for viewing through the scopes.   While they were waiting in line, I went back to presentation on the big screen for exoplanets and a various solar system models and constellation views.  Then discussed upcoming events like comet ISON.

    Both scopes tracked about 90% all night.  We were able to see Venus until it set in the west and then quickly switched to the moon as it peak up in the East.  Some other notable views of the double double in Lyra as well as the ring nebula and double stars.

    Best moments of the night were definitely all the children who went "Wow!" as they looked at the moon or the ring nebula.  Many vowed to return on some upcoming public star parties.

    Last guests left about 10:50 pm, secured observatory and left about 11:20 pm

    Temp 46 degrees
     
    - James Hall
  • 17 Oct 2013 10:08 AM | Anonymous member
    Canyon of the Eagles Star Party
    Sun. Oct. 13, 2013
    Jim Sheets
    6:30 - 9:30
    Guests: 11
     
    Upon arrival at 6:30, everything on the grounds looked ok, but still needs mowing.
    I opened the observatory on Sunday since this was a Holiday weekend (Columbus Day). The sky was broken clouds so I opened the roof and set up the scopes in hopes of doing some viewing. The Harlin was aimed at the Gibbous Moon and the first guests were able to view it for a while. We caught a few glimpses of Venus with the Forrest scope, then the clouds socked in and we had complete overcast skies. The rest of the evening was devoted to TV presentations.
    The guests tonight were come n' go. never more than 4 at a time.
    Thanks, Jim S.
  • 17 Oct 2013 9:53 AM | Anonymous member
    Sat October 12, 2013
    Canyon of the Eagles Star Party
    Jim Sheets
    6:30 - 10:00
    Guests: 70
     
    Upon arrival, I noticed that the grounds were getting shaggy and needed mowing. I swept the floor and noticed the Harlin's finder scope dust covers were missing, but located them in the metal cabinet.
    The sky was overcast and rain was expected, I opened the roof and side doors, but did not set-up the scopes. By 7:15 there were 70 guests in the building, as we had 3 Scout Troops in house at COTE and this was a mixture of Scouts, Leaders and parents. I spent some time describing the telescopes and their operation to the group, then did a sky tour on the big screen. I had just switched to "Exoplanet" to explore the Universe when the first rain drops began... I closed the roof quickly (just in time) as a gust front hit us, then the rain started in earnest.
    We were in a serious thunder storm. The wind was pushing rain into the observatory sideways, so I quickly closed all of the side doors. For the next 30 minutes communication with the guests was impossible as the noise on that tin roof was deafening. Finally, the rain let up somewhat and I continued the presentation in a loud voice. The guests indicated that they could hear ok.
    After the TV presentation at about 9:30, most of the folks left, only 2 remained and we talked for a while.
    For those of you who think that our observatory is rain proof, well you're wrong!
    There are a few leaks in the roof, one of which is right in the middle of the north desk. For the most part, the roof did a good job of protecting the telescopes, but in a wind driven rain storm, it is not completely water proof.
    At 10:00pm I made sure everything was put away properly and departed, somewhat soggy.
    Thanks, Jim S
     
  • 12 Oct 2013 9:12 PM | Anonymous member
    Fri Sept 13, 2013
    CoE Star Party
    Darin Koch
    7:30p-12:30a
    Guests: 20

    Building good, grounds excellent, both scopes worked very well. INTERNET IS WORKING very well, plus the skies were very clear, against the CSC predictions of gloomy. I'm writing and sending this from the iMac G5 computer in the observatory. I tested a direct wired connection to the router with a 50' ethernet cable and got a max reading of 21.30 mbs down, and a max of 4.0 mbs up, but averages around 2.0. The ping averages about 750ms compared to 60ms of cable modem connections. It's really not as bad as one would think. Pages load rather quickly, and out here...well that is just fantastic! With the iMac set to wireless, i get a reading just now of 14.44 mbs down and 1.37 mbs up....with 10 of 15 bars signal strength showing. I will get a wired exterior grade ethernet cable into the observatory. Question is do we want maybe two lines, with one serving as an extra for times when another user needs good access? I'd say yes on that one. We'll see what the EC may say. 

    I tested my 17" G4 Mac Powerbook laptop from the south field tables and got about 4-5 bars of 15 and registered a max of 2-4mbs down, .7-1.5 mps up. This is quite good considering the distance. So the whole field is covered. There were times of dropped connections, but this could be related to the router hardware as it is an aged unit. Replacing with a better unit should prove more reliable.

    All other systems working. We saw the waxing gibbous Moon, Saturn, but a 6.4 mag star (SAO 161754) was occulted by the Moon at 10:40p.Two lucky guests (a man and a woman) got to see the star dissappear right before their very eyes while viewing thru the eyepiece. I had them yell out for all other guests to hear when it vanished and it was very exciting for both guests and the crowd. Also saw M57, M31, M13, Albierio, Double Double.

    Skies very good. Seeing was 5/10, much twinkling in Antares. 

    Closed up and 74º.
  • 12 Oct 2013 9:10 PM | Anonymous member
    Friday, Oct. 11, 2013
    CoE Star Party
    Darin Koch
    7:35p - 12:00a
    Guests: 20

    Grounds fair, stickers are getting high, must get cut again soon. Both scopes did well. Internet working well. Mosquitos were overwhelming, my Repel brand was not working all that well, maybe due to it's 7 yr old stage? I will buy some fresh Repel and put in steel cabinet next trip. These are monsters tonight and affected the crowd greatly.

    The skies actually cooperated and cleared eventually to a mostly clear sky. Last couple left inside 10pm, so I started fiddling with Excede Satellite Internet rep on the phone trying to find out the account settings to put in my computer for outgoing mail server. No can do without name on account and no EC member names worked, so now tomorrow morning I'll have to make some more calls to the installers.

    A little more testing on the internet, I tried two computers simultaneously for bandwidth performance and it was equally split in the down mode 8 Mbps ea, but both upload was at near 3 Mbps! Awesome performance considering where we are.

    We saw the 1st qtr Moon, Venus, Albierio, M57, M13, M31. HDTV worked great to show the crowd some animated visuals on the sky and some movies.

    Quite warm and a litte muggy, but comfortable temperatures, very little wind.

    Left 12a temp 75º.
  • 11 Oct 2013 10:50 PM | Anonymous member
    Friday, 04 October 2013
    Canyon of the Eagles Star Party
    Jim Sheets
    6:30pm - 10:30pm
    Total Guests: 10
     
    After setting up the telescopes and getting the observatory ready, my first guests arrived at 6:50pm and I showed them the fuzzy image of Venus, looking through miles of atmosphere and a very warm mirror in the Ealing scope. I am looking forward to colder weather and nicer images. The planet Saturn was still above the western horizon at sundown, however it is now below the wall of the observatory and not able to be viewed. We will have to wait until next year to view this Jewel in the sky.
    As this was night of the New Moon and the sky was clear we were in for a treat, and sure enough as dusk disappeared into darkness, the view overhead became a true wonder to behold! The Milkyway popped as viewing conditions were excellent.
    We were able to do a messier marathon with several of the bright ones exhibiting more detail than usual. It was a great night to point out that you can see M31 with no magnification (naked eye) if you know where to look.
    At about 9:30 my first guests were leaving and shouted back from near the parking lot that there was a snake near the path. They heard it rattle but did not see it. I took a bucket and tongs along with a brave guest to hold a flashlight and we found the 4 foot Diamond-Back next to the path. After securing the critter and calming the folks down, we were able to continue viewing.
     
    Note: A reminder that our observatory location is in a wilderness area and caution should always be used while roaming around the viewing field in the dark.
     
    After the excitement, we did a laser show of the constellations and also pointed out the summer triangle and the northern cross. I then offered a tour of the Universe using "Exoplanet" software.
    The last of my guests went back to their resort digs at about 10:30 so I closed up shop and departed.
    All in all, it was a pleasant evening with the folks,
    Thanks, Jim
  • 27 Sep 2013 3:12 PM | Anonymous member
    Canyon of the Eagles Star Party
    Thursday, 26 September 2013
    Jim Sheets
    Temp: 78 - 74
    Guests: 17
     
    This evening started out great with clear skies and a good view of both Venus and Saturn just after sundown.  My guests started to arrive as the sun was setting. The group of 13 were very impressed with the view of Saturn as Titan and Phoebe were visible plus more moons were in and out of sight with the use of averted vision. Venus clearly mimicked the last quarter moon with one
    side sliced off.
    The remaining 4 guests arrived at 7:55 and I started giving sky tours with the laser pointer. As the evening progressed the Milkyway became vivid with pronounced dark lanes visible, This was becoming one of the better viewing evenings of the season. I proceeded to show the objects that were most impressive in the eyepiece for novice stargazers. The Double-Double was easy to separate into all 4 components with the 17mm 1-1/4 eyepiece. M-13 was bright and got lots of comments from the group. I was excited to have these good viewing conditions and continued showing objects until about 9:30, one of the guests said that they were on the go from early morning and were tiring rapidly... this group all left together at 9:35, leaving me all alone to enjoy the night sky for myself. I continued for another hour. I locked the gate at 10:40 and was gone.
  • 26 Sep 2013 5:51 PM | Anonymous member
    Canyon of the Eagles Star Party
    Saturday, 21 September 2013
    Jim Sheets
    Guests 16
     
    The evening started with above average sky conditions and the observatory grounds and building were in good shape. I configured the Forrest scope for Venus and the Smith for Saturn as they were already low in the western sky. Four guests arrived shortly after sundown and were treated to descent views of these planets. It seemed to take extra time for the sky to darken enough to show any deep sky objects.
    Between 8:30 and 9:00 the remainder of the 16 guests came in so I did a sky tour with a laser pointer. Objects found were: M13, M57, Alberio, Double-Double.
    The temps were pleasant in the low 80s and upper 70s (hurray for fall weather).
    By 10:30 half of the guests had left and the Gibbous Moon had started to wash out the faint objects so we concentrated on viewing the moon and discussing the universe.
    Overall it was a good night to be under the stars.
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