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Is it just me....?


Clarkey
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I'm not sure if I am imagining it, but this year seems to have been awful for clear skies - at least since the summer. In August I eventually got round to building my imaging observatory with two pillars and mounts. One for wide field and the other for smaller objects. However, since then I have not managed a single imaging session. I got half a night in about 3 weeks ago, but the seeing was so poor I literally binned the data. Also, I had a serious condensation problem on one of the scopes. I set up my gear this evening as the forecast was promising, but no sooner had I started a sequence it clouded over completely. So due to being this far north and the weather, I have not got a decent imaging session since early May. I think the most annoying part is that there are plenty of others regularly churning out images in other parts of the UK, often not that far away.

My concern is that with global warming as it is, this may become the norm. Despite the observatory (and the £3k spent on it), I am seriously considering selling up and taking up golf. (Expensive, frustrating and achieves very little - sound familiar?) At least with golf you can play when it is cloudy. What makes things even worse is the forecast here is regularly a total work of fiction. Often the forecast is for completely clear skies and it is overcast and raining. Perhaps worse is the opposite. Lousy forecast and wake up to clear skies and a frost.

Ok. Rant over. Didn't make me feel any better either.

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Yep weather is awful.  Around here at this time of the year even if there are no clouds chances are there is going to be thick fog!   The last couple of years have pretty much written off getting any scope time between November and March. 

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Just started this year, but I'm averaging maybe one or two nights a month.  I just thought this was normal.  Observing is slightly better since I'll happily dodge clouds there, but that has also been challenging for various reasons.

I've got quite militant about going out.  Unless I'm ill, if it is clear I'm going out.

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Under UK skies I wouldn't make imaging my main diversion, nor would I see it as an alternative to daytime sporting or intellectual activities. Even here in Provence, with hundreds of clear nights each year, I have a plethora of other entertainments available, some of them expensive and some not!

If I lived in Cumbria, I would do a lot of golf-free golf (by far the best kind :grin:) by walking those hills and dales and relishing every kind of weather for its own charm. I'd take a camera to satisfy my picture-making itch, too.

Remember, fate might have sent any of us to live next to Spaghetti Junction...

Olly

Edited by ollypenrice
typo
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I am sure I used to get out observing much more in the autumn than nowadays, I find that late winter and spring tends to be the best time for me now.

One problem for me is that weekdays are out due to work and caring commitments at home. I then find that when I do get the chance to get out I'm torn between visual or imaging (which I am still fairly new at). And then if I decide to image, I am torn as to what to image, knowing that I might not get another chance for a few weeks/months, and if visual do I search for something new or observe old favourites before they disappear behind an obstruction. 

I think I need to get more organised, I am thinking of making a list of things I'd like to observe/image each month and somehow put it in some order of priority. At least then I should spend less time dithering about. 

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The weather has been dire, with very few clear nights, and the few that we have had have been rendered unusable by either a full moon, or wind blowing a hoolie making it unwise to open the obsy.

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You're not imagining it. As @SmokeyJoe commented above, the weather here in Norfolk has been dreadful for the past few months. With Jupiter & Mars both coming to opposition this autumn I have been completely dedicated to planetary imaging, which in theory only requires a few minutes to grab enough data for an reasonable image. Even that has proved impossible most nights and on the nights that it's been clear, there has been so much atmospheric turbulance that the seeing has been rubbish for planetary. I've had a couple of nights of ok seeing, but no excellent, or even very good sessions. Mars opposition is 8 Dec 2022, so I have everything crossed that the weather gods will give me some opportunities over the next month, while Mars is at it's closest to Earth for the next 2 years...🤞🤞

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It's been unusually windy this year which has ruined a few clear nights (as well as bringing in bad weather).

For imaging it takes planning, I do not setup if it's not going to be forecast to be clear for at least 3 hours minimum, the longer nights help as you can image for a few prior to sleeping. I'm finding it playing havoc on my mono workflow however as projects are taking months, so I'm doing more OSC.

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12 hours ago, Skipper Billy said:

Here on the NW coast of Scotland we have had one clear night since astro darkness returned at the of August!

It's been the same here just below the central belt too.  A couple of early evenings here it's looked like clearing but around 8pm the sky has vanished.  Quite disheartening.  Because we're so limited for imaging time I'm finding my images are suffering - instead of 2 or 3 nights data gathering on a single subject I'm trying to fit as many targets in as possible so for example I only managed 2 hours on Andromeda a few  weeks ago - I'd like to add to that data and my scope/camera has been left set up for just that reason but it's likely that I'll be pointing at Orion the next clear night we get. 

Graeme

 

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The humidity has also been sky high of late, with dew dripping off everything, and the heaters running at full power, in fact CO has been showing 100% humidity all night for several nights. Totally ruining the seeing.

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2 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

Remember, fate might have sent any of us to live next to Spaghetti Junction

I used to live halfway between Birmingham and Manchester, not far from the M6 under Bortle 8 skies, and I got far more time at the scope! 

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29 minutes ago, Seoras said:

forecast

You can as I rely on it all the time without even looking outside. First use clear outside app to get an overview of the week ahead. Around 48 hours prior to a clear night check it again. Check it again on the day. Cross reference with the met office cloud map. A few hours prior just rely on the met office cloud map and scan ahead to make sure it remains clear. Look outside. Very rarely failed my plans and is usually accurate to the hour. I even check it whilst imaging. The key is to discern via experience how much grey showing on the map will constitute bad transparency, I normally don't bother setting up unless the land mass is showing more green and open skies for hours, if it shows a break for one or two hours don't bother as it'll likely change quickly and cloud over.

Edited by Elp
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Since I took up the hobby around 5 years ago, every October through to February has been the same. Cloudy with rain. You get the odd night here and there in between but certainly not clear, frosty nights with sparkling skies like we all associate with winter. And when we do get frosty weather it tends to come with snow which makes light pollution even worse as its reflected upwards! I would say I have 6 completed images under my belt from the past year with multiple nights used for capturing data on each. That's with a fixed pier so no setup time and I have the luxury of leaving running all night until morning. I certainly couldn't do it if I had to setup and strip down every session. 

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I'm now in a dilemma. Should I be happy that the weather across the rest of the UK is just as pants as it is here, so what I'm putting up with is not that bad. Or should I just be more depressed.😭

The trouble I have is once we get out of winter, there is not enough darkness for imaging. I will keep praying for a long cold spell in the spring.

Now where did I put those golf clubs.....

 

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I am lucky to have a permanent, remote-controlled set up, but even with being able to operate it from wherever I am I think I have managed only one dusk to dawn session in the past two months.  A large number of initially promising early evenings have turned to thick cloud and very high humidity.  I find that using a combination of Clear Outside, MeteoBlue and the Met Office gives a pretty reliable indicator of the position over in the coming two or three days, but it does not stop that position being thoroughly depressing most of the time at the moment 🙄

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An average of 1-2 nights per month between August 25th and April 25th of suitable deep sky-clear type of nights for me too. Maybe one more if i count the really dodgy nights when i might try to get away with some planetary and lunar but i try not to go out if its too risky as that too gets tiring after multiple failures.

I do use every single clear night though, unless i am physically unable to. 5/7 nights are week nights so 5/7 imaging nights are also week nights, cant be picking and choosing if the weather is like it is. @Clarkey do you image only when the scheduling works well with the rest of life or whenever possible? We gotta be a little bit crazy and deranged to do this hobby, and sacrificing some work nights just has to happen. Of course i dont live in the UK, but Finnish weather seems quite similar near the southern coast where i live to what i have read of typical UK weather (a bit colder of course but cloudwise).

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48 minutes ago, Clarkey said:

trouble I have is once we get out of winter, there is not enough darkness for imaging

Nothing wrong with imaging in summer, I do it all year around and have averaged one DSO a month which corroborates with my 3-4 week gap per session. In fact during summer there's typically one week of good weather where you can do 3-5 sessions during it (wow...). After I finished a 12 session project at the start of this year, I decided I didn't want to spend 20+ hours on a single target and try to do it in one, two or three by altering my setups to speed it all up.

Edited by Elp
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Don’t take up golf, instead spend the money on setting up a duel rig if imaging is your thing and you don’t already have one. Imaging time is doubled without any reliance on the weather improving. 

Also having a permanent setup which can be operated unattended makes a huge difference in the UK. It’s only anecdotal but I seem to find that the skies can often remain clear from the early hours to sunrise, this slot was never  open to me when I was setting up and taking down every time.

Sure, Sept/Oct has been grim but I clocked up 75 hrs from 1st March to 31st May this year and kept on going all through the summer. Results were mixed but    I got some reasonable images, if I wanted to try for APOD standard every time I would sell up and buy time at a remote site.

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