Adding to the Messier Collection – Rice, CA, March 1-2, 2022

After a period of inactivity due to poor weather and other circumstances for a few months, I was back at it out in the California desert on a planned mission to do two things: 1 – shoot over a dozen Messier objects that I have not shot before so that I can add them to my “personal collection,” and 2 – make up for the 3 months of inactivity.

Date: March 1-2, 2022
Location:Rice-Midland Rd, Rice, CA
Time19:00-5:00 (UTC-8)
Weather clear/calm ; 80°-50° F
Bortle Scale2

Equipment Used

  • 8″ (203 mm) f/4.9 Newtonian Telescope
  • Atlas II EQ-G Mount
  • Orion 80mm Short Tube Refractor w / Starshoot Autoguider
  • Nikon d5300

When I was shooting Comet Leonard in December of 2021, I had just moved to a new residence less than a month prior, and was (and and still am) adjusting to how well I have access to my telescope equipment. Because most of my belongings were in a storage unit, along with my telescopes, I wasn’t necessarily always able to have quick access to it the way I used to. It wasn’t until late February when I figured out that the trailer I currently live in has a big enough “storage area” where I can keep my telescope equipment for immediate setup and use.

On top of that, My Nikon d5300 and all of my camera equipment (adapters, coma corrector, coma corrector extenders, eyepiece projection adapters) was also stolen out of my car when I was staying at a motel during the move. Why I didn’t have it in the storage unit when I should have I’ll never know, but it definitely put a small dent in my credit when I started purchasing a replacement d5300 with the proper adapters. The only reason why my Autoguider camera wasn’t stolen was because it was still adapted into my 80mm Short Tube Refractor.

And then there began a string of poor weather and scheduling conflicts over the next few months when the new moon windows came and went.

So when March 1 was approaching, with the weather forecasts ideal, and because I knew I didn’t have any work commitments in the morning, I jumped at the chance, and was ready to drive all the way out to Rice, CA.

March 1, 2022’s planned shoot.

With the mission I set myself on, I knew that I wanted to do everything I could to keep time and make this all nighter a super productive session. This was indeed the first time ever where I planned the shoot all the way down to the minute. The goal was simple – shoot all these new objects that I had never shot before!

With the initial setup, the first of many hiccups came when a rare car drove down the dirt road, not really acknowledging me despite me setup ON one side of the dirt road, and kicked up dust when he drove by. He then returned the other direction shortly after dark and again kicked up dust that was in the air for what felt like forever. I had to wave blankets to get the dirt away from the telescope, and it nearly put me behind schedule. Another car passed by, but thankfully this one slowed down and greeted me, he being a fellow ‘gazer himself, and I thanked him for not kicking up dust.

The images were mostly shot with ISO’s between 1000-1600, and none of the sub exposures were longer than 3-5 minutes. Because I was shooting at f/5 I knew I didn’t exactly need an hours worth of data each shot for the galaxies appearing small in the frames.

Wind that wasn’t in the forecast started to pick up over the remote location around 9:30 pm local time, and of course my laptop would warn me when a guiding star was lost due to the wind, which set me back a tad.

I had thought that I fixed the collimation at home before the trip, but midway through I noticed the collimation was too poor for the Coma Corrector to do its job, and of course I ended up fixing it. Funny enough, once the collimation was fixed, the wind stopped.

But then another hiccup arose – the hand controller kept resetting itself due to the connection wires beginning to wear down, which caused the mount to stop moving along with the earth’s rotation. So for the rest of the night I had to be careful about how I handled the controller just in case the cable wasn’t correctly working.

But despite this, I still achieved all of the messier objects I wanted to shoot, and was able to add in Vega, M13 and Omega Centauri for good measure!

This surely won’t be the last session for 2022… stay tuned for more!

Keep Looking Up!


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