The 4th of July holiday fell on a Thursday this year which happened to coincide with the approaching new moon. I took full advantage of the long weekend and arrived at the Anza site on Wednesday afternoon. I was the only one there and thought nothing of it while setting up until I realized that I left my headlights on while the truck radio was playing. I had that sinking feeling as I walked around the truck. As expected, I heard that dreaded clicking sound as the starter struggled to turn the engine over. From past experience I hoped that the battery would charge enough to start the motor but as a backup plan I texted a friend who was coming out later and asked him to bring some jumper cables. After an hour or so I tried starting the truck and success, it started up! Obviously I was relieved but I couldn’t stop thinking about how earlier that morning I chose to leave my Die Hard 12v battery station at home for the first time. You know, because I never need it and have never used it! Oh well, the Die Hard just earned its place back on my Anza equipment checklist.
While the battery was charging I got the solar scope aligned and started imaging. There wasn’t a lot going on with prominences but a nice sunspot group was making its way across the surface. I captured a 6 panel video that I used to assemble a full disk mosaic. It is posted on the Solar page.
The patchy clouds from the late afternoon had disappeared and it was shaping up to be a great night for imaging. My first target of the weekend was the Cats Paw Nebula. My plan was to get two nights worth of data for this target in LRGB. I did the usual polar alignment, focus, and calibration routine and started imaging about 10pm. I wrapped everything up about 4am and hopped in to the back of the truck for some shut eye.
My sleep was interrupted by the instant 90 degree blast from the Sun coming over the hillside. Gotta love the high desert in Summer! After breakfast and coffee I turned to the solar scope and started imaging. Again, not much going on with prominences but the sunspot group was impressive. I posted the mosaic image on the Solar page.
Thursday evening was another great night for imaging. I was targeting the Cats Paw Nebula again and the imaging went smoothly, or so I thought. The next day I started to assemble my images and one thing jumped out at me, I had some elongation of stars on the edges of my image. Now, if I was imaging a smaller object this could easily be fixed by cropping. However, the Cats Paw Nebula filled my field of view and the elongated stars were right there for all to see. Well, there went two nights of data down the drain! I am using a new scope so the lesson learned: use the field flattener for large objects!
Still rattled from my mistake the night before and needing a confidence boost I fired up the solar scope. Everything went well and with confidence properly boosted I posted the result on my Solar page.
On Friday, there were mixed reports for solid cloud cover that night. The Clear Sky Chart said clouds from 10pm to 4am. The National Weather site said mostly clear. Who to believe? As it turns out it was clear until about 2am and then it clouded over. Not a total loss but a shortened night to be sure. Still dinged by my Cats Paw image results I went after a smaller target, M27. The thought of using the field flattener and re-imaging the Cats Paw did briefly cross my mind. However, I did not want to waste valuable dark sky time on the learning curve associated with new equipment. I captured about 3 hours of data on M27 this night.
Like most days at Anza, I turned to the solar scope and captured some more video. I like capturing the sun because the features change daily, hourly, and sometimes by the minute with some types of prominences. However, the last few days have been uneventful. The large sunspot group is still visible but the prominences were nothing special. I posted the image on my Solar page.
The plan for Saturday night was to collect more data on M27, however the sky didn’t clear until 11pm. I captured some good data after that and I was happy with the combined images from both nights. I posted the M27 image on the Nebula page.
Well, it wasn’t the most productive trip but I enjoyed the time away. I now have a good reason to test the field flattener and while I am at it I will also test the reducer and extender. Testing new equipment at home is always easier for me. I can take my time, take good notes, and tweak routines without the pressure of using valuable dark sky imaging time. Also on the to-do list is re-mounting my guide scope. There are a lot of items to attend to whenever a new telescope is added. Example, I noticed the first night that the Takahashi TOA-130 tube is not as thermally stable as my Televue NP101. The Takahashi requires a focus change every 1.5-2 hours. Let the testing begin!