April 16, 2007

Kelling Heath, April 007

My first star party, and I was planning on not taking the scope, but just going to see how it all worked. I was convinced by a few people that I would regret that if the sky cleared… so somehow I managed to load all my Astro gear into my tiny Ford Ka.

Great weather on the drive up to Kelling Heath. Warm, sunny, looking good…. then I turned off the main road and down near the camp site, the sea fog just hung over the entire area.

(All images taken with kind permission from the UK Astroimaging forums )

The fog did clear during the afternoon for a while:

But as the sun fell slowly towards the horizon, the fog rolled in again. Everyone covered their scopes, took all their electronic kit into their tents, and started to plan for a “social” evening.

About 10.15pm, I suddenly became aware of something hapenning in the field. The lights in the tents were going off one-by-one, and the sound of Meades powering up (BEEP) and slewing to targets (whhhhhhiiirrrrr). I looked up to see that the fog was clearing. Great stuff!

Within 20 minutes or so, the sky was clear(ish). The NS8GPS performed perfectly all night, the GOTO putting the objects in the eyepiece every time. This was my first really dark sky, and not knowing how long the fog would stay away, I went through the Messier list and managed to visually spot 22 M objects, before my first power tank was drained. Why did it drain so quickly? Ah, that will be the fog again. My dew tape was on full the whole time… it had to be. Anything less and the correcter plate would dew up instantly. My eyepieces were also dewing up quickly, so much so that I had a charcoal hand warmer in my coat pocket, and had three EPs in use in rotation: One on the scope, 2 in my pocket de-dewing.

The dew stayed managable for about 4 hours, then rolled in again at about 2.15am. I decided to call it a night and pack up. My first star party was over (I could only stay the one night) but it was everything I had been expecting. The only two downers were that it was too wet to do any imaging, and the big downer on the Monday was finding that my laptop was dead, even though I did not actually remove it from the car the whole weekend.

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