Our traditional optional dark-sky trip this year came on Saturday, Nov 9. The original plan was to go to Mercey Hot Springs, and this year I'd be taking a College van to support the transport. There was lots of initial interest, but in the end, busy schedules and perhaps the stark remoteness of the site conspired and it boiled down to Astrophotography 9C veterans Gene and Becky, and I. Weather promised low clouds over Monterey Bay, making darkened Fremont Peak a closer, attractive alternative. Duane came by just to drop off a much-needed Die Hard battery to run the computer. Gene and Becky and I managed to completely fill the 7-person van with astrophoto gear and camping gear, which I'll have to note for future reference - the Stroke Van is too small for any but the most minimal participation.

The night before, Nov 8, I'd spent at the observatory doing the occultation by the asteroid Iduna, successfully. While there, I also baked the ST4k CCD camera's dessicant for 4 hrs at 375F and replaced it into the camera. Standard practice is to wait 24-48 hrs before use, and we were using it 24 hrs afterwards. Alas, we had frost on the chip window which needed time to clear. I note that when we shut down due to winds before midnight, then powered up again at 4:30am or so, the "cleared" window re-fogged when brought back down to -20C. It seemed to then clear again more quickly than at first. Do we need a new dessicant cannister? Do we need a new "o" ring? Both?

Intrepid astrophotographers at Cabrillo Observatory, before de-barking. De-barking - for adventure!

At Fremont Peak State Park campground, fellow campers looking out at sunset over an ocean of clouds below

From our observing site on "Astronomers Row", looking back to the tree under which we camped, lit by my red headlamp. Most of the wide angle shots on this page are with the 10mm Sigma f/2.8 fisheye lens

Santa Cruz, glowing through the fog in the distance

Farther to the right, this is low pressure sodium street lighting glow from Silicon Valley

Gene and Becky at the 8" f/4 Meade set up. We used Gene's laptop for camera and mount control

Becky, lit blue by the propane flame, kept us happy with tea and hot chocolate during the night.

Becky and Gene, Orion rising over the oaks. 18-200mm zoom.

Same scene, with me now, and using the 10mm fisheye. Now we get Auriga, Taurus, Orion, and a ton more, including the microwave towers

Oak forest and stars, using 'auto levels' and then tweeking it down a tad to emphasize the sky blues and reds along the distant city lights

Some of our astrophotos... sometime we'll get Gene's photo of the Andromeda Galaxy, and Becky's of nearby spiral NGC 247

Moonset on the left, Silicon Valley glow on distant clouds to the right.

Ghostly clouds, desaturated to render in black and white and gray

Our headlamp-lit little team under the stars

more to come, stay tuned....

A 1-second image of the first quarter moon and 4.5 magnitude Nu Aquarii, to be occulted in a few minutes. Uncropped so as to give the ST4K frame size. Click on this thumbnail to see a cropped, Photoshop'd enhancement using the range command and 'local contrast enhance' etc to bring out the faint details.

Comet Lovejoy, taken earlier than the best shot (next), with more frost still on the window and a smaller clear area. No cropping, and also kept the 'auto' setting on background/range

Comet Lovejoy. High winds caused jumpy, trailing stars, but the comet itself was quite nice. It will be great to be able to photo it again in a dark sky w/o the wind and perhaps with a more developed tail sometime soon. This is a single 5-minute exposure, at -20C. I upped the 'range' in CCDOPS to help with the otherwise saturated coma, then re-emphasized the fainter parts in Photoshop

Comet Ison, complicated severely by approaching dawn and inability to get a calibration. This is a simple 1 minute grab w/ dark frame; no tracking, as dawn was so bad I dared not wait for another attempt at calibration.

Becky, beaming in the bracing wind and first light of morning sun. All the pix on this row are from my little Lumix.

Me too - with my first chug of "nuclear mud" (my banana smoothie concoction which jump-starts all my mornings)


Looking East from our spot

A mile down the mountain, a nice view looking northeast over cloud-shrouded San Juan Bautista and the next mountain range



The Cabrillo athletic teams, for their away games, always opt for the other vans... we got this one.