With weather looking wet and wild for the 2019 Cherry Springs Star Party and things looking slightly less soggy at Calhoun we decided to cancel on Cherry Springs and gamble on Calhoun. Good thing we were setup on the top of a ridge so we never had to deal with muddy conditions considering all the rain we didn’t know was coming.
I attended the annual Calhoun County Park Star Party (Oct 5-7) for the first time this year. The sky wasn’t the best it could be. Friday and Sat night both had humidity and dew off the charts with variable fog that seemed to slide up and down the hill but never got so high that it killed observing. I can’t help but think that it impaired the images a little but it may have just been the choice of a faint target during a hazy time of year. Sky quality measurements topped and held pretty steady around 21.6 mag/arcsec^2. I’m sure on a crisp night it would be a little darker. While there were some small light domes on the horizon they weren’t hardly worth mentioning in my opinion. The park was wonderful and the staff was so friendly they even prepared a great meal for us on Sat night. In total about 16 people showed for the party from TN, WV, PA, OH, and KY. Special thanks to Larry McHenry for posting info about the star party and turning us onto this event and Calhoun as an observing site. He typically posts updates on Cloudynights star party forum for upcoming Calhoun events.
Since Calhoun is pretty dark I decided to go after a fainter full spectrum object than I could ever do from home. VdB objects (reflection nebulae compiled by Sidney van den Bergh) are great targets when looking for something off the beaten path but aren’t always what I would call showcase objects. VdB 14 and 15 make for a nice parring here in a rich park of the sky in Camelopardalis.
Unfortunately we were mostly clouded out for the star party. From the sounds of it some of the other big star parties going on concurrently were also clouded out. It just wasn’t a good weather weekend for a large portion of the eastern US. Regardless of the clouds, the rangers at Pickett put together some good food and speakers for the event to keep it entertaining. I stayed for only one night and snapped a few pics of the hazy skies with the Milky Way trying to peak through.
I made the 13 hour trip up to Cherry Springs State Park for the Annual CSSP Star Party hosted by the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg PA, Inc. I went up a few days before the star party since it’s always helpful to get a good spot. Those of us that were there early on Monday night were treated to a fabulous night with SQM measurements >21.9! Overall it was an amazing streak of clear weather for PA with a total of 4 imaging nights. I was hoping for one or two so as not to set my expectations too high so I was very pleased with four nights!
I even did a little visual at low power with a 4″ refractor. LDN 1795 (large 50’x50’dark nebula in Scorpius) looked absolutely amazing to me at 19X. First time I had a WOW moment visually.
A couple images from last years 2017 CSSP that I finally got around to looking at. It wasn’t a very productive astrophotography trip but enjoyable none the less.
If you’re going to come to a star party like this please follow the rules and don’t be a rude jackass like the following guy. We all understand and tolerate some light issues, car alarms, and emergencies but when you light the place up over and over without any regard for your neighbors I would suggest staying home and not ruining everyone else’s vacation!
I was the first one to arrive for the star party on Saturday night at Look Rock South. It’s a beautiful view to the south looking into the Smokies.
We definitely had some clouds for the beginning of the night with some sucker holes now and then. I was never able to get off a 20 minute shot without the clouds rushing in within 10 minutes…
But things finally started to clear up and the Milky Way really started to pop out.
Once it was cleared up I was off to take some test shots and validate the portable rig was ready for more serious projects. NGC 6820 AKA Sharpless SH 2-86 and all the surrounding emission and dark nebula has always been a favorite of mine. It’s located in Vulpecula not that far from M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. It reminds me of a less popular M16 with it’s gas and dust pillars and dark globules. Open cluster NGC 6823 resides in the midst of the nebula and is about 6,000 light years away.
Just getting around to publishing some pictures from the 2016 Black Forest Star Party at Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania. What a great stretch of weather for PA! The nights weren’t the darkest or most transparent (SQM 21.4-21.5) nights I’ve had at CSSP but clear and a little murky was way better than the alternative after driving up from Knoxville TN. Had a great time with some old friends and good to see some old club members too.
Had a few imaging problems related to dithering and settle time / settle criteria that made me lose a fair number of shots but I got two images which, I have to be honest, I’m not real pleased with. They are however, more challenging objects, but would have come out better had the sky conditions been closer to the SQM 21.8 that I’ve seen before at CSSP. But, we take whatever quality of clear sky we can get during a pre-planned star party!
Messier 63 (also known as M63, NGC 5055, or the Sunflower Galaxy) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici consisting of a central disc surrounded by many short spiral arm segments. M63 is part of the M51 Group, a group of galaxies that also includes M51 (the ‘Whirlpool Galaxy’). M63 is an active galaxy with a LINER nucleus.
In 1971, a supernova with a magnitude of 11.8 appeared in one of the arms of M63.
Friday night was fantastic without a cloud to be seen. Saturday night was less pristine with a lot of thin cloud moving through. I thought we had some clearing later but a lot of the images from Sat night showed very inconsistent background values which leads me to believe we had thin stuff moving through all night. Still, how many clear nights can you ask for? It was a great TSSP and looking forward to the Fall Star Party.
SQM measurements topped out around 21.3 on Friday night and 21.4 on Saturday night.
On April 1st through April 3rd Pickett State Park, a newly designated IDA Dark Sky Site, held its first Astronomy Weekend Star Party. We were clouded out Friday night but clouds on Saturday finally yielded to clear skies albeit with some very gusty winds until the wee hours of the morning.
Earlier this year (2015) Pickett / Pogue State Park was named a Silver Tier IDA dark site. I haven’t made it up for a night of astrophotography yet but have been wanting to visit the area and scope it out before lugging all the equipment up there for the first time. On Sunday my wife, the dogs, and I made a visit up to hike the short trail to the Pogue Canyon Overlook. The trail head is connected to the parking lot that adjoins the astronomy field at the Pogue SNA. First off, finding the place wasn’t difficult BUT google maps does not have current satellite imagery from there so I couldn’t pinpoint it easily. The address given didn’t seem to match up with anything in the imagery. So, to make it a little easier, here is an image of the location:
I’ve been interested in Pickett / Pogue for a while since it appears to be one of the darkest places in Tennessee and is located only 1:40 from my home. Here are a few light pollution maps showing where it is in relationship to sources of light pollution:
I also wanted to share a few photos from the site to show you all what to expect when you arrive at the site:
A little bit of side information that might be of interest as it contains SQM measurements, photos, and upcoming event information:
Don’t forget, the Fall Star Gaze is happening 9/19/2015 at this location! I’d love to see you there but I’m tied up and can’t make it. Hope to make it out under the stars there another time.