10 February 2021 Imaging Session – Joshua Tree National Park

Date:February 10-11
Location: Cottonwood Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Observing Time: 19:00 – 4:00 ( UTC – 8)
Weather: Clear, slightly hazy, Calm w/occasional breeze, Humidity 25%, Seeing – 3.5/5
Temperature:65°- 42° F (18° – 5° C)
Bortle Scale: 3

ObjectConstellationFrames LayeredCombined Exposure
Needle Galaxy (C38)Coma Berenices3~20 min
M5Serpens315 min
Beehive Cluster (M44)Cancer215 min
Whirlpool Galaxy (M51)Canes Venatici745 min
M67Cancer310 min
Markarian’s ChainVirgo540 min
M88 & M91 Virgo430 min
Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) Ursa Major532 min
M109 Ursa Major630 min
SiriusCanis Major25 min


Initially I was going to head all the way to Rice because it seemed to be the least windy out of my usual spots. But along the way there, just as I was exiting Indio and about to climb toward Chiraico Summit, I felt, “do I REALLY need to go out that far? Maybe it’ll be fine at Cottonwood.” Long story short, my instincts were right, and a couple hours of driving were saved!

I also happened to run into a fellow “frequent flier” and fellow stargazer whom I’ve kept in touch with periodically, which was not the plan at all! Had I not stopped by the restrooms on my way to the spring, he wouldn’t have known I was there!

One thing we both were able to see first hand is that my Atlas II Mount and his newly purchased Skywatcher EQ-6 are the same exact same mount, just different brands and colors!

While the night was overall a major success when it came to guiding and imaging, it wasn’t without any hiccups. When setting up the alignment, after getting the date, time, and location correct, the SynScan controller prompted me to pick alignment stars that were NOT visible… as in suggesting Arcturus and Vega when it would’ve normally prompted Sirius or any bright winter star.

I told the controller to reset to factory settings, which did correct the alignment star issue but for some reason stopped back lighting the buttons. It wasn’t the end of the world, but still…

Looks like I better do some troubleshooting before the next big new moon trip.

Finally, after so many attempts before, I was able to get shots of M51, M101, and the Virgo cluster that I’m proud of… good detail, very little noise, and sharp background stars! The Atlas II continues to do the job I bought it for!

At 4 am, I ended the night with some decent landscape shots showing the rising Milky Way.

All in all, a very successful night, and for those who met me, or happened to run into me, it was nice chatting with you!


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