Observing Time: 19:30-23:30 (UTC -7)
Weather and Sky : Clear, calm, dry, average seeing conditions
Bortle Scale: 3
My grandmother was a sewer in her spare time. She could sew together beautiful artifacts like blankets, stockings, decor, etc. But it didn’t matter how close she was done to finishing, if it wasn’t to her standards she would break it down and start again.
I went out on October 16 because a friend and his wife wanted to check out the beautiful skies over Cottonwood. I also met and presented to many other people I didn’t know – because how could people at a crowded campsite NOT see my setup? From the young children, to the child interested in science, to the fellow stargazers who had their own equipment and did their own outreach, it was surely fun to meet them all and present. It’s something I surely miss doing during the pandemic closing down public telescope viewing in Griffith Park.
But when it finally came time to image, the seeing conditions remained poor to average at best, and it did not help that the wind never completely died down. It was merely too much for my tube and autoguider to handle. None of the images I took were “good enough…” at least for my standards.
Needless to say it felt defeating! But of course, that “bug” wasn’t going to go away until I came back out and shot again.
Even though it’s crazy to observe in Joshua Tree National Park one night and work in Los Angeles the next day, it’s something I wouldn’t do if I didn’t enjoy the heck out of it, and I figured I could get it it all done if I had everything timed and shot in the right order. I also chose the parking lot for the Cottonwood Spring Trailhead away from the campground on purpose because it meant less people approaching me (though if you’re reading this, it was nice to meet you, fellow stargazer!).
The conditions still weren’t perfect, but I wasn’t always plagued with my autoguider “chasing the seeing,” and windy conditions blowing sounds into the telescope like a glass jug. This time, I was comfortable!
The shot of the Andromeda Galaxy is actually a stitched mosaic of three sections. When your telescope’s focal length is 1000mm, the galaxy system is actually too large to fit in a single frame, so I took the challenge and constructed it in sections. Overall it’s an hours worth of data in that image!
Sculptor Galaxy and Helix Nebula also performed well. While shooting Sculptor, I could see an airplane ruin the exposure thanks to Phd2 on my laptop showing the plane fly by in real time. If I didn’t catch it, it would have been a ruined 10 minute sub versus a photobombed 60 second shot.