Actually, this trip was to L.A. on family business. But on the way home, I camped at Carrizo Plain National Mounment with the intent of scouting additional campsites higher on the Caliente Ridge for possible use this coming Spring in Astro 28, and also to take the first photos with the SBIG ST2000XCM CCD camera. The skies were clear, clean, and cloudless... and also lit by the full moon. It was OK - figured that would better approximate Cabrillo Observatory skies. My time in L.A. was stressful, but arriving at Carrizo Plain always puts me into a good frame of mind. At left, the full moon rises over the distant Temblor Range, from near KCL Campground. I drove on, and set up my camp halfway up Caliente Mountain, cooked a dinner of steamed fennel with garlic and tomato pesto. Then, before I could break out the mount and photo gear, I collapsed into my sleeping bag and slept.... till 3:45am. Still a few hours before dawn, and so I hurried to set up the GM8 mount, Megrez APO, and ST2000xcm.

The photo below of the Orion Nebula was a 2 minute prime focus shot, unguided. It's dark-subtracted but not flat-fielded. The temperature was set at -20C. I wanted to get something before dawn and so I did just one initial polar alignment and didn't have time to fine-tune the pointing at the nebula. With all the muscle'ing around getting things pointed and balanced, I'm suprised the stars are still quite round even for 2 minutes. What's more impressive is that not only was there a full moon in the west, but twilight was well advanced by this point, especially in the east where Orion was. The limiting magnitude at this time was about 2.5 and the eastern horizon was red, with dark blue extending to overhead. The photo was exported as a .tif and then the levels were adjusted with the curves command in Photoshop. No color adjusting was done. So - what can we expect with a good dark sky and longer exposures?

A nice campsite on the crest of Caliente Ridge...

... with a view of Soda Lake

Historic Pozo Saloon in the backcountry of San Luis Obispo County