Friday I met a fellow star guide up at PMO for some stargazing. Oh, it was colder than is decent, but the sky was crystal clear, the roads were clear and I had a new polarizing filter to try out. Thanks to my great friend picking out a great holiday gift for me.
It hasn’t really snowed here yet (I’m knocking on wood as I type that), but it’s still bitter cold. Down into the teens and single digits at night. Usually we have trouble getting around this time of year with snowy and icy roads. Impossible to get up to the observatory without four wheel drive or a snowcat … usually. Not so this year. So, that’s why we met up for some stargazing.
I got the observatory’s 10″ dobsonian telescope out to snap some Moon shots. With the new filter, they came out really nice.
The setting Moon.
The Dobsonian outside the dome. Yes, that’s some snow. It’s above 6,000 feet, so there was bound to be some.Jupiter. If it wasn’t so darn cold, I would have been more patient to try for a better shot.
I didn’t stay outside long. Went into the 24 to enjoy some protection from the elements and observe the winter sky. Since the observatory isn’t open in the winter, it’s a sky I don’t usually get to see through a telescope. The equipment acted up again. The hand control wouldn’t work to adjust the telescope and the software was acting weird. But with the two of us, we were able to use the controls on the computer, the ascension and declination dials, and a person at the spotting scope & then at the eyepiece to center the images and realign the telescope.
So, I finally got to see Orion. Finally. It was worth the wait. It was worth freezing my ass and toes off. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen through the telescope. Absolutely, unequivocally stunning, wondrous and beautiful. If Orion was up in the summer, I’d never look at anything else. The wisps of the nebula twisted like smoke, cacooning some bright stars, delving in and out of light. Spectacular.
Then we put the oxygen III filter on and the nebula became even more pronounced, almost 3D. The stars inside it turned purple and red. Beautiful.
We looked at other things: globular clusters, open clusters, nebulae, galaxies, Jupiter and the Moon. So, it was a great night of stargazing.
On the way home, because it was so cold, the fields of sage and brush sparkled under the setting Moon which had turned a golden color. Everything sparkled as if coated in diamonds. It was really beautiful. Didn’t run into those mysterious lights on the way home. I looked for them, though.
I hope to be able to observe the eclipse this weekend … if the weather holds. Since the Moon will be setting, it will be hard to see from here. There’s some lava buttes and mountains in the way. Plus, the sun will be rising and the forecast says partly cloudy. We’ll see how that goes.