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Clear DARK skies in northern California, USA


m_j_lyons

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Work and life has kept me from getting out under the stars for far too long so I'm making it a point to get out more. Saturday night I was able to get up to Blue Canyon airport (KBLU) in the Sierra Nevada mountain in California, USA. It's about 1/2 way between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe at 5284 feet (~1610m) elevation. Clear Dark Skies website shows it BLUE on their light pollution rating...it was DARK! Turns out a star party was going on and we were late - woops.

I had my older two boys and this was their first time seeing the Milky Way...which stretched in all it's glory from horizon to horizon with all the dark lanes/divisions visible. Wow...what a sight.

Anyway - here is my observation report as cut from Deep Sky Planner's logging tool.

Not put in DSP were observations of Neptune (I'm tracking it every couple nights) and views of Albireo (stunning) and gamma Delphini (I liked it...but no color contrast).

OLD FRIENDS

NEW FRIENDS

Deep-Sky Planner Observing Log Report

Sessions

Date/Time Location Notes

Begin:

End:

LT/UT:

Time Zone:

2011-08-27T09:02:00-07:00

2011-08-27T10:06:00-07:00

LT

ID1001 Site:

Lat:

Lng:

Elevation:

Blue Canyon Airport

39.274° N

120.709° W

1610m

First time to Blue Canyon for some DARK sky observing. Wow...great time! Location shows as a 'blue' darkness on the clear dark sky charts and I'd agree - it was dark. Milky Way was on proud display. Aidan and Zach were with me - they were almost shocked at all the stars they could see - not to mention their reaction when they saw the Milky Way for the first time. Turns out that a star party was in full swing by the time we arrived...lots of big scopes.

Total sessions: 1

Deep-Sky Planner Observing Log Report

Observations

Started out with NAKED EYE M8 - The Lagoon nebula was just sitting there as a fuzzy patch NW of Sag.

First observed object was M20 - Wow...the wonders a dark night can bring. I started the night out with Trifid to give the boys a pop of excitement...and they loved it. Conditions were good enough that some of the dark veins in the nebula were visible! That's a first for me. The nebulosity was BRIGHT and large ... more like looking at the Orion Nebula from home. The star field around the nebula was very impressive...almost hard to get a good focus becuase SO MANY stars were visible outside the range of focus. Awesome target!

Next over to M22 - Wow. I've wanted to observe M22 under dark conditions and it did not fail to impress. Quickly found with 15mm and moved up to 6mm for more detailed look. Nice cluster of stars in center with decreasing density towards the edges where the pin-pricks of light became more easily discerned. You could tell there were individual stars...but they were tightly packed. Great sight.

The Ring Nebula...M57 - Great conditions...great results. The Ring Nebula was easily seen by everyone and the contrast to the dark sky behind was stunning. Did not pull out the barlow to save time...but it would have been nice. Nice pale-greenish color to it.

The Dumbbell Nebula ... M27 - Nice view of the Dumbbell nebula - still couldn't make it out as a dumbbell...but it glowed a nice pale green. Showed up nicely and looked more like a diffuse diamond (or box depending on tilt) with some differences in brightness towards the ttop/bottom ... I know the middle section is where there is less brightness but I can't see what the pictures show with my scope.

Over to Bodes ... M81 - Great view of M81 - this faint fuzzy was larger than previously observed as conditions were so dark. No overly impressive to the kids...but still a great view of a galaxy! Averted vision brought out more than just the bright central core...a more faint/diffuse expanse (disk) was visitible for about 1/2 of the scope's width under 6mm (75x) magnification. Kids were bored with the faint fuzzies otherwise I'd have spent more time here to see if I could pull out some more detail.

and M82 - Found with M81 using 15mm...did not dwell here as the kids were bored with 'faint fuzzies'. Extended thin line of the edge on galaxy was easily observed.

Then some fun back over in Andromeda - M31 - My best view ever of Andromeda! It ws HUGE in the scope under 15mm. Covered MORE than the field of view. Strong/bright central core with extended light washing along the galactic disk right/left (NE/SW). Very impressive sight...would have loved to spend more time here to pull out some details...possibly an arm.

... M110 !!! - Easily showed up in the same FOV as M31 - fuzzy, elongated patch of light. Pretty to finally see.

... and M32 ! - Positive ID for the first time...obviously in the same frame as M31. Fuzzy star...no more detail.

...and closing out the night we went over to always impressive M13 in Hercules (which was tough to find in the massive field of stars I was seeing...and I haven't been looking at Hercules in MANY months) - Final WOW object for the night...kids were now completely exhausted and cold. Found with difficulty (wow those star patterns look different when you can see ALL of them) after coming over from Vega. Found with 15mm and then moved up to 6mm. Very nice target with some individual stars and a lot of graininess present. Addition of the barlow would have been nice...but the kids were DUN.

Overall an A+ night - hope to make the 55 minute drive again before summer is gone.

Dark skies!

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  • 4 years later...

A very nice report from an area I have never been to and we are seeing a few from this part of the world now, which is nice. It sounds like it is a prime spot and being that high will not do any harm though maybe a bit chilly.

Alan

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