Joshua Tree National Park
Observing Time: 22:00 – 4:00 (UTC -7)
Weather: Clear, Hazy (wildfire smoke in atmosphere), average seeing conditions at best, temperature – 95-65° F (35-18° C)
Bortle Scale: 3
This was the first time out with my brand new Atlas II Mount, purchased because it is supposed to be able to handle the load I currently have with the 22 lb 8″ Newtonian telescope/camera/guidescope/autoguider optical tube assembly. It’s definitely a much more heavy duty and sturdy mount than the SkyView was.
After performing the polar alignment procedures that supposedly got me within arc seconds of the NCP according to the hand controller, the PHD autoguider software rarely presented me with any problems calibrating and guiding throughout the night. It was one of those where I felt, “if it’s working, let it ride!” Never once did I encounter any backlash issues, and if there were, the mount must have been able to handle the payload!
Therefore, I was super comfortable doing exposures longer than 5-10 minutes with relatively low ISO!
This was also the first clear night for yours truly after a week long period of the sky being overcast by wildfire smoke. The sky itself was still pretty hazy due to the abundant wildfire smoke all over California… in fact on my way to the park, I could see a new wildfire erupt on Mt. San Jacinto, which is across the desert valley from San Gorgonio Mountain – still ablaze from the El Dorado Fire that was started by an “explosive gender reveal party” during a dry heatwave.