Sunday, March 01, 2015


Far, Far Away...

In the mid-60s we, even us kids, were clued in by S&T that there was something strange out there...
Muchachos, I am not over the hill yet. Not quite, but, as I’ve said before, I am getting there. I am entering in on that stage of life when most of us begin tallying up the score and thinking about the big questions:  “Is this all there is?” “Is the Universe more than just a big machine, albeit one with a few funny gears?” “Was there a ‘why’ to me being here?” “Is there a ‘why’ to the Universe itself?” Actually, I believe I began considering such things seriously about four years ago. The questions, much less the answers, just weren't clear to me yet. 

Anyhow, four years ago, as I worked the Herschel Project, my quest to observe all 2500 Herschel deep sky objects, I found my main interest often wasn’t in the H-objects themselves, but in the dim sprites sprinkled across my fields, the tiny and distant background galaxies, the PGCs and the UGCs. I became somewhat obsessed with seeing what lay beyond the friendly old NGC/IC.

So, what does paragraph one have to do with paragraph two? You can’t begin to formulate answers—personal answers—to the sorts of metaphysical questions I’ve begun asking without grounding yourself. You can’t begin to know a little about your relationship to the Universe without, yep, knowing a little about the Universe itself. In other words, seeing the Universe might help me place myself in it, as good old John Dobson used to opine. I hadn’t yet consciously realized that four years ago, but the wheels were beginning to turn...

Now, I am not sitting around constantly thinking Deep Thoughts. I'll admit I have done more than a little of that lately, but life goes on. Part of life, an important part for me, is astronomy, and one of the ways I like to practice that is by running down to that southern deep sky haven, the Chiefland Astronomy Village occasionally. When I am on the dark CAV field, I want to hit the deep sky as hard as I can, and to do that I need WORK, a project, a list. What would that be for my February dark run?

As I mentioned last time, post H-Project I’ve tried-on several observing programs. Most of them have been fun, and some of them are still being worked in somewhat desultory fashion. Unfortunately, given my mind-set, none seemed a good fit for this particular Chiefland expedition. I was somewhat dismayed to discover there was nothing I was fired up about seeing. I wasn’t ready to abandon my CAV vacation, though, so I did some more of that Deep Thinking, but with a practical astronomy focus.

The answer to “What will I look at?” wasn’t long in coming. Most of all, it would be a short-term project, something that seemed to suit me far better than a gargantuan effort like the ol' H-Project at the moment. It would be a little different from most of what I’ve done before, too. Not to mention maybe being grandiose to the point of smacking of hubris: I would observe as many quasars as I could with my Schmidt Cassegrain telescope one long weekend down Chiefland Way...

“Quasars?” Yep, quasi-stellar radio sources (or, since not all are strong radio sources, quasi-stellar objects, “QSOs,” if you prefer). These are the frighteningly distant objects that baffled the astronomers of the 1960s, and weren't satisfactorily explained, really, till the era of the Hubble Space Telescope. Yes, they had been presumed to be the violently active black-hole-fueled nuclei of ancient galaxies for some time, but it wasn’t until the HST was able to resolve the host galaxies of many of them that that truth (notwithstanding the theories of the late Chip Arp) became certain.

How is this different from what I’ve done before? When it comes to the deep sky, I’ve always been after details. The Quasars would be like the PGCs, however—just moreso. There would be no detail to be seen in them. They are, as their name implies, just star-like points out in the dark.

Where does the “hubris” come in? Quasars aren't just far away; they are cosmic relics. Leftover features of a young Universe. Their distances are measured in billions, not millions, of parsecs. The brightest of them, Virgo’s 3C 273 is close to magnitude 13, and they go all the way down from there. The saving grace? That quasars are star-like. You can see a 16th magnitude star a lot more easily than a 16th magnitude extended object.

First things first. I'd need a list of quasars to observe. I turned to SkyTools 3 as I often do, set up a search for Quasars, set the magnitude limit to +17, hit the “go” button, and—whoa Nellie!—I’d have to do some paring down. While there are “only” several hundred known quasars, SkyTools also fetched similar AGN (active galactic nuclei) objects like Seyfert galaxies and BL Lac objects. Which was cool, but even when I limited the search to declinations I can observe from Florida, there was a humongous number of objects on my spreadsheet. 

My Mallincam Xtreme analog video cam can go amazingly deep with amazingly short exposures. 17th magnitude galaxies are easy. But as I'd discovered, +17 yielded way too much of a good thing. I definitely didn't want a wearyingly long list. Since a whole number change in magnitude brings a tremendous increase or decrease in object numbers, I backed off from my original magnitude limit of 17 to 16. That left me with a list I thought about right, if maybe still on the large side for one Chiefland run, 350 Quasars and their near kin. All of which I could see from scanning their entries in SkyTools  were very far away indeed, which was kinda the point.

Me + SCT + Mallincam + ST3 observing list sounds like a pretty normal CAV run, even if the objects I’d be running after would be different. There would be one major change this time, however: no motel. I was tired of Chiefland’s two inns, the Days Inn and Quality Inn. Or I thought I was. They are bearable, but distinctly second rate. Since Dorothy wouldn’t be with me this time—she’d be off on a trip of her own to visit her daughter in DC the following week and needed to get ready for that—I decided to avoid them. If D. wasn’t with me, I was loath to spend a couple of hundred bucks in a motel I didn’t much like.

Yeah, I know, I know, after the horribly hot Chiefland Spring Picnic of May 2002, I swore I’d never tent-camp on the observing field again, but I rethought that. Most importantly, it sure wouldn’t be hot, even in Chiefland, Florida, in February. The weather goobs were predicting chilly temperatures, though just how chilly wasn't yet clear. Secondly, a large part of my problem in ‘02 was my tent, a small one. That, I’ve discovered, is a big, huge no-no. If you cannot stand up in your tent, you will not be happy with your accommodations for more than one night, I guarantee. Also, having your sleeping bag on the ground, even on an air mattress, is no way to roll.

Those caveats in mind, Dorothy and I did a recon of Wally-World’s sporting goods section. We returned home with a decent Coleman tent, one with a max height of 6-feet, tall enough for me to stand up straight in. I also glommed onto a camp cot, which I much prefer to a freaking air mattress. Neither tent nor cot was expensive—I wasn’t going on an expedition to Everest—and it warmed the cockles of me little heart to think how inexpensive this Chiefland trip would be with no motel and with gas prices lower than we've seen in years.

Rod ain’t no dummy (well, not always); back home, I set the tent up in the backyard to make sure I could get it pitched easily and quickly on the first night with dark arriving early. Coleman claimed my new cabin tent was an “instant up,” and while it might not be that quick to set up, amazingly, I had it pitched, by myself, in about five-minutes, no foolin’. Camping gear acquired and checked, all that remained was to wait the few days till my Thursday morning departure...

Anyhoo, Wednesday afternoon, the day before my leave-taking, I loaded up the 4Runner. For reasons that had nothing to do with the CAV or the observing I hoped to do there, I had to admit to myself I wasn't looking forward to the trip as much as I usually do.

Mid-life crises are supposed to hit in your 40s, but I missed having one then and thought I was immune. Not so, apparently. At least that is what I am calling my current state, which involves lots of ruminating on events that happened over 40 years ago. 

Yadda...yadda...yadda. Stiff upper lip and all that rot. I pulled myself together and began to get excited about the coming dark observing run. Till I turned on the Weather Channel, that is. Frankly, when I took a look at the forecast for Chiefland, which was predicting horrendous cold—for us southern tenderfoots—in the mid - low twenties, I was tempted just to call the whole thing off. 

Why didn't I? mostly because a person was to meet me out on the field to buy my cast-off NexStar 11 items:  the fork, tripod, case, and wedge I had left over after I deforked Bertha in order to put her on a Celestron CGEM mount. He’d responded to my Astromart ad, I’d promised I’d be at the CAV, and I didn’t think fierce cold should be enough to prevent that.  Say what you will about the Rodster, if I tell you I'm a-gonna do something, I will do my level best to follow through.

Dorothy was, naturally, skeptical about my tent camping scheme in such frigid conditions, but I had an ace up my sleeve. My Black Cat catalytic heater ought to be safe enough to use in the Coleman as long as I kept a few of the tent’s vents open. The heater doesn't produce an open flame; the major safety consideration is that it, naturally, uses up oxygen. Black Cat in the tent or under the EZ Up as needed, and I figgered I might survive the low twenties.

Wednesday evening was pleasant enough, with me turning in not long after Arrow went off. When I began planning this expedition, I wasn’t as excited as I usually am, but I’d gone through the motions anyway and that seemed be enough to get me back on track. By the time Ollie pronounced somebody else had "FAILED THIS CITY," I was raring to go. In addition to selling my astro-stuff, there were quasars to chase and my “new” C11 to check out. I’d only had the CGEM out in the backyard twice, hardly enough to give it a real shakedown.

The trip down was as uneventful as uneventful can be. I’d normally have been listening to music on the satellite radio, but without Dorothy to talk to and just music on the stereo, I thought my mind might be apt to turn down pathways I didn't want it to turn down. Instead, I had a massive audio book, Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, which I'd been meaning to listen to or read for months and months.

Thanks to Mr. King’s Grand Guignol tale, the drive east to Tallahassee on I-10 didn't seem overly long, and I was soon turning off at the well-remembered exit, refueling at the Sunoco station with gas for Miss Van Pelt and a Sasquatch Big Stick for me, and picking up Highway 19, the Florida – Georgia Parkway, gateway to the Nature Coast and points south.

It seemed odd to drive right past the Days Inn and Quality Inn, and I nearly stopped at the latter. The forecast I’d looked at on my phone at the filling station was now predicting even colder weather. But, no, I’d stick to my plan and at least try tent camping. If it was too much, I’d get in the truck, drive back to town, and check into one of the motels no matter how late the hour.

I was pleased to find a handful of hardcore Chiefland Observers including my friend Paul Lavoie (with his beautiful A-P mount and refractor) on the field Thursday despite the dire prognostications of the weatherman, and I began setup feeling purty darned good.

The CGEM mount is not much harder to assemble than my VX. Oh, the head is heavy enough, but it’s nowhere near as heavy as the old fork/OTA combo was. Not that the C11 tube is a lightweight, even without the fork. And you have to slide the dovetail into the saddle from one end, not tip it in like a Vixen dovetail. But it really wasn’t that bad, and since I’d have it up for two or possibly three days, no prob. One thing was sure; the old girl looked good on her new mount.

Two or three days? Don’t I normally stay through Sunday morning? I usually do, and that was an option, but I wasn't sure I was in the mood this time. I thought that was because of my rather blue (not the MEAN REDS) feeling, but in retrospect I think it was more I was suffering a little of a CAV hangover after making the trip so many times during the Herschel Project. It also just didn't seem as much fun without Miss Dorothy along...I'd got used to having her with me on so many of the runs for the vaunted H-Project. 

As it stood on a chilly Thursday afternoon, I thought as soon as the NexStar GPS stuff deal was done on Saturday, I would turn the 4Runner, the ever-faithful Miss Lucille Van Pelt, for the Swamp and home. Foregoing Saturday night would to some extent depend on how much observing I got done Thursday and Friday, but it looked to me as if Saturday would be a weak evening, with poor transparency probable, scattered clouds likely, and considerable overcast possible.

Scope on mount and EZ Up erected, it was time to get to something that had been worrying me:  the tent. Sure, I’d set it up in the backyard, but I was far from home now and darkness wouldn’t be long in coming. That situation is always an invitation for Mr. Murphy and Mr. Finagle to come calling. I needn't have worried. I was tired from the drive down, and it took me twice as long to get the tent pitched as it had at home, but that was still only 10-minutes. What had taken the longest was getting a big tarp, the ground cover for the Coleman to go on, laid-out and staked down. There were frequent gusts of frigid wind and the tarp almost got away from me a time or two.

All that remained was to tie-wrap three tarps to the EZ Up to form its sides and get the computer and Mallincam Xtreme ready. I decided to take a break at this juncture, however, and make my supper/Walmart run. At Wally-World, I confined my purchases to an inexpensive extension cord (forgot one), bottled water, and snack items.

Supper? BBQ Bill’s was tempting, but it wouldn’t have been much fun without Dorothy, and I didn't want to waste time waiting to be served in a real restaurant with work still to do on the field. I settled for Taco Bell’s notorious and delicious Dorito Taco Big Box. Scarfed that down and hurried back to the CAV.

Got the tarps on the canopy without much trouble despite the wind, which wasn’t dying down, and proceeded to mount the camera on the scope's rear cell and hook it to the laptop and to my monitor and Orion DVR. Yes, I am still using the little digital video recorder I bought toward the end of the Herschel Project. I tried running the Mallincam's video to the computer via a frame grabber for a while, but didn't like working that way. I do control the Mallincam with a laptop, but the video goes to either my monitor (my old portable DVD player) or the DVR via a composite video switch box.

It was then I realized I'd left an important but not critical piece of gear at home, my JMI Motofocus. I’d been in such a mood I hadn't followed my gear-loading checklist as attentively as I should have. I did video for years without a Motofocus, however, and I could get by without it, but there was no denying I’d miss the widget—a lot.

I was darned tuckered by the time I finished the last of the afternoon’s preparations—setting up the tent hadn’t been that much additional work, but it sure felt like it. I am of the opinion the next time I do a tent on the observing field in the winter, I will try for an earlier departure from home. Nothing is worse than scrambling around trying to get everything ready with dark coming.

The good thing, I reckon, was by the time my preparations were done sunset had arrived, and I didn't have to sit around waiting. Polaris was soon popping out and shortly thereafter, bright alignment stars. I essayed a 2+4 goto alignment, an AllStar Polar Alignment, and a second 2+4 to ensure goto would be dead-on after moving the mount in altitude and azimuth to polar align.

All went sweetly easy. Just like with the VX. I operated the CGEM with NexRemote using a Logitech Wireless Wingman gamepad as my “hand control,” and centered the stars with the video camera, which can be set to display a set of cross-hairs on the video screen. Easy as pie, and my test goto to M79, Lepus’ little globular cluster, put the target dead center on the screen. We were off to the races.

NGC 891
The only question was which races we’d be off to. I was tired and already feeling cold despite my coat, sweatshirt, long sleeve shirt, and long johns. I had the suspicion I wasn't up to chasing dim quasars on the first night. Might be best to spend the evening checking out the new scope/mount combo and seeing if I still knew how to work the Mallincam Xtreme after not using it for months.
The CGEM performed superbly. I was working with a small field of view, but any object I requested, from one horizon to the other, was always in the camera’s narrow field—which was smaller than it was when the scope was in its fork configuration.

Since I didn’t have to use a diagonal with the scope on the CGEM (had to with the fork or the camera would bump into the drive-base), I didn't have enough spacing between the Xtreme and my Meade f/3.3 reducer to provide as much focal reduction as normal. With the Mallincam inserted into a visual back screwed directly onto the reducer, I got maybe f/4 – f/5. Field looked to be maybe 10’ x 20’. I’ve got some spacer rings and an SCT prime focus adapter I can use to get a wider field next time.

There was actually some benefit to the smaller field, though; I was getting big, detailed pictures of objects. The famous edge-on galaxy in Andromeda, NGC 891, just slammed onto my monitor, showing mucho detail in its equatorial dust lane. In fact, every object I looked at Thursday was superb. There was a reason for that that had nothing to do with the scope:  a crazy-good sky.

Shortly after NGC 891 was in the can, I stuck my head out from under the tent canopy and looked up. “Well, darn…looks like haze moving in.” Venus in the west was set against a hazy background that spiked upwards towards the zenith. Then it hit me:  “That ain’t haze (you dummy), that’s the Zodiacal Light!” When conditions are right, the CAV skies can still amaze.

Unfortunately this crazy-good transparency was accompanied by crazy-bad temperatures that began dropping sharply at mid evening. They had hovered on in the upper 30s for some time, but as nine p.m. approached, the low thirties arrived and I guessed the mercury would not stop falling anytime soon.

I placed the heater in the tent to warm up my accommodations, since I believed it wouldn't be long before Big Switch Time. I was tired, I was cold, and I was not my usual ebullient self. I did a few more goodies including the Horsehead Nebula, M78 (which was as good as I’ve ever seen it on video), M81, M82, and several more before bowing to the inevitable.

Or starting to bow. I was here to get quasars, and I would get at least one on this night. Which one? “Old Faithful,” the Twin Quasar, QSO 0957+561, in Ursa Major was decently high so I went there. One of the best things about this magnitude 17.0 object (so SkyTools says; I believe it may be as much as a magnitude brighter) is it’s easy to track down. It’s close to a bright galaxy, NGC 3079, and a dimmer galaxy that’s still easy in the Mallincam, MCG 9-17-0 (magnitude 15.4). Best of all it is adjacent to a distinctive pattern of field stars.

When the CGEM stopped, I immediately picked out those stars in a 30-second exposure. I thought I might be seeing the QSO too, but the interests of being sure I upped the exposure to 1-minute. Yep. There it was. A little pinprick of light. Not much different from what it had looked like in the eyepiece of my 12-inch Dobsonian, Old Betsy, when Dorothy and I were at the 1999 Texas Star Party. Or…maybe it was different.

As its name suggests, the Twin Quasar consists of two QSOs positioned next to each-other, a brighter one and a slightly dimmer one separated by 6-arc seconds. Except there aren't really two quasars there; the two are the same QSO. A massive foreground galaxy, YGKOW G1, is creating a gravitational lensing effect, causing an additional image of a single object to be formed. Peering closely at the monitor, I was thunderstruck to realize I was resolving the Twin. Its "ghost" image was surprisingly easy, actually.

The Twin’s stats are amazing (and kinda scary). The light from the core of this ancient galaxy, which is nearly 8-billion light-years from us, set out before the birth of the Solar System. Most amazingly, I was seeing it with my modest telescope and my modest camera in a relatively modest sky. That was almost enough to impel me to push on no matter how cold I was. But not quite. I threw that accursed Big Switch, covered Bertha, and headed for the Coleman.

Surprisingly, the tent felt almost too warm at first. I got my heavy coat off, set up the PC on the camp table, inserted the DVD of Aliens, poured out a little warming red wine (spilling quite a bit on the tent floor in the process), and was warm and cozy for some time. Comfortable enough, but I was cursing my current health kick and wished for a great big bottle of the Rebel Yell--which would have done a lot more to warm my old bones!  Eventually, the outside temperature dropped enough that the little catalytic heater couldn’t keep up, and I decided my sleeping bag was a good idea, but it was never tremendously cold in the tent.

Being warm enough in the night wasn’t the problem. The problem came just after dawn when I needed to use the facilities. Nature’s call impelled me to brave temps my phone claimed had dropped to freaking 19, which must be close to a record for this part of Florida. I got to the clubhouse only to find the toilets were frozen up. There’s a heater to prevent that from happening, but we were all so fixated on the fantastic sky that we forgot to turn it on.

I ruminated on what to do. There was a pretty obvious and simple way to get rid of the inevitable results of the red wine from the night before. But what then? After a long previous day on the road and setting up, and a night in a cold tent, I felt in bad need of a hot shower. There were, of course, showers on the field, the famous "meteor showers," but seeing as how these were open to the sky, that didn't have much appeal. Frankly, I didn't believe it would be warm enough even in the afternoon to encourage me to take one. Solution? Jumped into the 4Runner and made tracks to the Quality Inn.

There, it eventuated that a room for Friday would not be a problem, but one for Saturday would be. There was a big funeral being held in town and both the Quality Inn and Days Inn were booked up. I figured the same would even be the case for the modest Manatee Springs Inn, the town’s single remaining hostelry. I told the clerk I’d take the room for one night. Sounded as if my decision about staying/going on Saturday had been made for me. I doubted I'd want to move back to the tent after enjoying the hot shower, breakfast, and cable TV of the motel.

Late Friday afternoon, refreshed thanks to a long shower and some o' that cable TV, I motored back to the field for what it appeared would be the last night of my dark run. If it were to be that, I needed to get as much done as I could. After viewing that one quasar Thursday, I’d got a good feeling about the project and thought a magazine article might come out of it. Maybe even more than that. So, I needed to see as many QSOs as I could on this evening. I could no doubt get quasars from the club dark site back home with the uber-sensitive Mallincam Xtreme if I wanted to continue on with 'em, but they’d still be easier in Chiefland.

Before I could get going on this last night of my Chiefland run, however, I had to deal with a bad video cable. I’d had several incidents Thursday where the video glitched. Wiggling the cable always brought it back. Friday night when I turned on the camera, no matter how much I wiggled I couldn’t restore the picture. Luckily, I had a spare cable, which cured the problem. The fault was really mine; I knew I had a bad Xtreme cable and a good one, but it had been long enough since I’d used the camera I’d forgot which was which. If I’d been smart, I would have trashed the bad cable just as soon as I received a new one from Jack Huerkamp, but you know how your silly old Uncle is about throwing anything away.

Video problem banished, the CGEM and C11 again performed admirably. You hear a lot of grumbling about the mount—there’s no denying it had a somewhat bumpy introduction—but I am here to tell you that if your requirements are similar to mine you will love it. For visual/video with an 11-inch or smaller SCT it is unbeatable for the price. Is it an A-P Mach 1? Of course not. But I don’t need such a thing, you might not either, and you may be surprised to hear that, despite what’s sometimes said about the mount on Astro-BBSes like Cloudy Nights, the CGEM is capable of doing deep sky imaging. Long exposure, guided, prime focus deep sky imaging.

Will I use the CGEM all the time? No. It’s heavy, and the combo of the VX mount and Edge 800 SCT (or one of my APO refractors) has proven to be a powerful one for me. It’s just so easy to get into the yard or the observing field, and the gears and motors of the VX are a step up from those of earlier mounts like the CG5 and, yes, the CGEM, in my opinion. Still, there are times when I want the horsepower Big Bertha can bring to bear. The CGEM is allowing me to continue to use her, and I didn't pay a lot for that privilege.

US 2778
The night’s observing? It was like doing the Herschel Project, just a little harder. I’d issue a goto command with SkyTools 3, which was connected to the mount through NexRemote’s virtual port feature (no QSOs in the NexStar HC database). The mount would make her sounds, which I gotta say are a little more like the weasels-with-tuberculosis noise of the old CG5 than the more refined hum of the VX, and when she stopped I’d take a look at the video monitor. That’s where things got a little “interesting.”

When I was hunting Herschels, it came down to deciding which deep sky object on the screen (there were often multiple ones) was the target. That could be trying at times, but usually there weren't enough faint fuzzies to make it a pain. Not so with quasars. They are star-like points.  The targets on my list that would be something more than that were some Seyfert galaxies, which might—might—present disks. Most, however, were "stars." What I had to do to identify my targets was match star patterns on the screen with those on a chart or photo.

At first, I was concerned about being able to do that in the field, in the cold, when I was tired. In truth, it wasn't as much of a problem as I'd feared. SkyTools’ excellent charts (POSS plates didn’t seem to be as much help), which were easily sized to the same field dimensions, approximately, as that of the camera, made it as easy as such a thing can be.

One other help? You often hear quasars referred to as “blue point-sources,” but even so, I was amazed to see some actually showed an obvious blue tinge with the Mallincam, which made picking them out substantially easier. Somewhat like when I was doing small Herschel elliptical galaxies and learned to look for their golden hue. Color helps.

So, was it fun? You bet. Surprisingly so. Part of it was the sense of accomplishment. When the run was done, I’d corralled twenty of the suckers (including the Twin Quasar Thursday night). Even more satisfying was thinking how deep I’d gone. The dimmest objects Friday were at my self-imposed magnitude 16 limit. As a sprout, reading what little I could understand in the S&T articles about these weird new objects, would I ever have dreamed I’d easily image down 16th magnitude and push out toward the edge of the visible Universe with my personal telescope? Not hardly, friends, not hardly.

Nineteen objects doesn't sound like a lot of objects for all of Friday night, does it? I considered just trusting the CGEM to make things go faster. Trusting that the object of my desire was somewhere in the field of the camera when the mount stopped and reviewing the images at home to identify my quasars. The CGEM never, ever missed an object, but I still demurred. I wanted to be sure, and I wanted to say I had seen my objects out on the field. Not seeing them until I got back home just seemed a step too far removed from amateur astronomy to me.

What mainly kept my object count down, however, wasn’t the time it took to identify the quasars. After a while, I got pretty good at that. It was the sky. The night was (a little) warmer than Thursday, but it was also not as clear. I was seeing real haze, not the Zodiacal Light. The wind was gusting, too.

Bertha and the CGEM handled the wind remarkably well, no doubt thanks to the TPI spreader on the tripod, but eventually the stars in my exposures began to elongate as strong winds caught the big sail of the C11 dew shield. Not long after that, the sky background on my images (and on one of my fellow observer's DSLR images) began to turn brown, a sure sign of haze. Formerly easy 15th and 16th magnitude QSOs suddenly became harder. It was well before midnight, but there was no denying it was time to call it.

Back at the motel, I spent considerable time with the cable TV (Ghost Adventures) and the remainder of that warming red wine.  I was feeling good, though it did take some time to banish the chill from my bones. The night's results had been better, even, than Thursday night. Not only had my run bagged plenty of QSOs, I had a warm room, a warm bed, a hot shower, and the prospect of a hot meal in the morning.

Saturday a.m. after breakfast (scrambled eggs, biscuit—ONE biscuit—and gravy) I checked out and headed to the CAV to pack. Which took a while given I had to strike the tent and get it back in its bag. I took my time, since I the fellow who was buying my gear wasn't supposed to arrive until noon. That was OK. The additional hours at the CAV after Miss Van Pelt was loaded let me spend some time with my friends and have a leisurely lunch consisting of junk from WallyWorld, natch.

My buyer's "noon" actually turned out to be "well after two." Why some folks just can't do what they promise they are gonna do is something that always baffles me, though it no longer surprises me.  I was plenty put out while I was cooling my heels waiting for him, you bet, and had just about decided "to hell with it." However, when he arrived shortly thereafter and I collected the dineros for the NS11 components, my mood improved considerably. I was feeling good about getting the fork mount sold and there was no reason to feel bad about hitting the road. It was increasingly obvious if I stayed on Saturday night there wouldn't be Quasars. There might not be Messier objects.

A look at the sky, which was now crisscrossed by multiple jet contrails thanks to spiking humidity, hinted Saturday night's conditions would more than likely be considerably worse than those Friday evening, which wasn't close to perfect. A storm front was moving into Florida from the east. I hit the highway, drove straight through with one stop for gas and nothing else, and made it back to the New Manse at 7 p.m. after passing through torrential rain along the Florida Panhandle.

Best Chiefland run ever, Muchachos? Nope. The weather, the cold weather, if nothing else prevented that. The upside was that I did get plenty accomplished. I also became reacquainted with how much I love our avocation. I started out not really in the mood to observe, but once I was out on the field with the scope humming, I had a real good time. What more can you ask than that?

Postscript 2022

Not too much more to say about this one. Yes, I was in a funk at the time, a derned blue funk. But, as I observed above, it would have been less funky if I'd had Miss Dorothy with me.  Also, it was pretty obvious I was ready for a break from Chiefland and that was a large part of the problem. Not only had I been down CAV way an awful lot the previous five years or so, changes insured it wasn't quite the same as it once was. I didn't know it at the time, but this was to be my next to last CAV odyssey.

And let's see...the red wine and health food bidness? I've continued to watch my diet and keep reasonably fit. That stood me in good stead following the accident I suffered in '19. In fact, my surgeon told me, "Rod, you're in pretty good shape for your age; if you hadn't been, you probably wouldn't be here." I have, however, decided, "good shape" does not preclude "Rebel Yell." I do, yeah, watch the diet, still, though...don't wanna wind up like one of those old dudes with the big, white Santa Claus beard riding an electric scooter up and down the Walmart aisles!

Otherwise? That dadgummed tent I'd talked myself into? I should have listened to the little voice that said, "Uh-uh, Unk. Remember how much you hated that blasted tent that May down at CAV? And how you swore you'd never tent-camp again?" You'll laugh, but the tent hasn't come out of its box again in the seven years since this trip. I still feel a little sheepish about that, but it was cheap enough it wasn't much more than what I'd have paid for an additional night (in comfort) at the dadburned Quality Inn. And sometimes a good lesson is worth a few bucks, too...

Next Time:  Star Trek and Me II...

Another great report of an observing session. Some terrific shots on the video, it's amazing to think how deep you can go these days compared to 20-30 years ago. Keep 'em coming!

nice piece of work ! ,, should make a great S&T article showing how using video, proper software and a common gem mount one can find and image very dim objects...... many applications besides quesars. Howard
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

stats counter Website Hit Counters