On high (4/25/2015)

On high (4/25/2015)

ugged our scope and tripod all the way up to Beech Mountain for our vacation. First day here, we were scouting possible locations. The Grandfather Park location someone mentioned was impossible to find – I have no idea what they were referencing. Closer to home, we found two possible – the big dead mansion on the curves coming over the hill and Buckeye Lake Park. I checked with the park folks and they said, sure, come in after dark. No problems with that.

That evening, the clouds swept away (thunder to the north) so we gave it a look. The haunted house had a big old streetlight hanging over it, totally lousy (that and the cars going past). No good. The park was better – its got a huge field out back with a bear fence (actually a ball field) that we could set up in. The problem was the building itself – they’d neglected to tell me they light it up like an alien mothership – total glare. But the stars were nice.

Came home and found the clouds really moving off. By 10pm, the sky was brilliant. Decided to set up outside on the back porch, using the hole in the overhang where the grill usually sits. My shabby compass thinks (possibly) that our house lines up directly on due north – right down the railing). Anyway, set up and calibrated off Venus. Not bad. But when I looked at stars, I realized that that high porch actually vibrates. Even when nobody moves, you get a vibration down the scope, making the stars dance. Soon as the wind blows, there goes your vision. Still, I checked out the Orion Nebula – while looking at it, a satellite rushed past, which I tracked across the sky. Looked at some favorites – the background stars were amazing. Still, that vibration was troublesome – bouncing all over the place. We ended with the moon, but it was bouncing like a ball. So the porch is not optimal for this sort of thing.

Which pretty much puts paid to the idea of shooting off my sister’s dock. I can see now that you really need a firm foundation.

Still, amazing stars. So many, in fact, that it made identification of the constellations difficult (well, that and the barren trees in the way). Still, we might get another night in. Here’s hoping. If today’s rain lets up, we’ll go back down to Buckeye and see if we can find something a bit out of direct glare from the building.