Astro 9 Fall '06 - Dark Sky Trip to Bonny Doon

Sept 16, 2006

Conditions were perfect for our first dark sky expedition. This first trip was local, to encourage participation. We had 6 students along for our optional trip - Yaron, Mitchal, Brent, Eric, Jonathan, Scott, and me. It's possible some had trouble finding the airport, despite the clear directions - a sign outside the gate about guard dogs and "no trespassing" was a bit of a deterrent I'm afraid. I got the Megrez + GM8 set up but calibration was balky for a while. But by 10:30pm we were on-line and everyone got to shoot 3 five-minute exposures of their chosen deep sky wonder. Chris Angelos and the SCAC people were along as well, and some stayed all night. Scott was eager to get the ST7 going on his telescope, but the junction box needs some trouble-shooting. At the end of the night he tried hooking the ST2000XCM to his scope, but some firm-ware incompatibilities made his GM8 computer go schitzo - a pretty frustrating night unfortunately. However, our GM8 and Megrez worked fine and the rest of the gang had good results, shown below.


The following night was also excellent, and I felt a need to get out again under the stars and listen to some classical music. I drove to Coast Ranch road and got an hour of integration on the North America Nebula. Each 5 minute integration looked beautiful. Before leaving, I also did 3x5min dark frames at T=-20C, for median combining and using on the Bonny Doon shots. The final result is at left: 12x5min stack through the Megrez refractor with the nebula straight overhead under good skies. Levels, curved, no cropping, brightness, contrast, and unsharp masking applied in Photoshop 7.