MY 3RD TRIP OUT TO THE FARROUT OBSERVATORY

DADE CITY, FL - JANUARY 24, 2009

As Reported By: Melvin E. Dawson
SAO Riverview, Florida

 

Dennis Farr - the Owner / Founder of the FarrOut Observatory

Dennis Farr, owner and founder of the FarrOut Observatory in Dade City. FL poses proudly next to his Celestron NexStar C-11 f/10 GPS SCT and binocular mount at the FOO site during the January 2009 observing session. Dennis was the president, and is currently secretary/ treasurer of M.A.R.S. (Museum Astronomical Resource Society) at MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) in Tampa, FL.

Photos taken by Mel Dawson – SAO - Vega Sky Center – Riverview, FL

                                                                                                         

 

 

To the surprise of some, after a long stretch between now and my last visit to the FOO (due to family events and work related circumstances), I managed to make it to the January 24, 2009 FarrOut Observatory observing session.

 Well, this report is going to be somewhat short, because of the weather conditions. Upon my arrival at around 19:00 EST, I was graciously greeted by our host, owner, and founder of the FarrOut Observatory, Dennis Farr, who yelled out, “is that Mel Dawson”. I responded, “yes, it is”! I guess Dennis could not believe his eyes, because it had been some time since my last visit. It was indeed great to see him again. He is definitely a generous individual and a great asset to the astronomical community. Others who attended the session were Bob Stelmock, Kevin Reese and his wife Pat, along with two new faces, Pete, and Steve.

 The sky conditions were unpredictable. With a slight breeze from the northwest, we hoped that the skies would clear in short order. The temperature was around the mid-50s. Unfortunately, early on all we were getting was a few periodic sucker holes. Altostratus and Altocumulus clouds slowly streamed across the sky revealing several openings, which had observers dashing to their telescopes trying to view objects like the Orion Nebula, Venus, Saturn, and others, before those sucker holes would become obscured with clouds.

My ambition during this observing session was to perform some trial DSLR imaging using my 80mm f/6 APO triplet, and my 90mm f/11 achromatic refractors. But, with the limited amount of atmospheric clearing we had, I only used my 90mm. In any case, I was able to capture a few images. A couple was taken of the planet Venus (presently in the constellation Pisces), and one of the Double Cluster in Perseus. I tried imaging the Orion Nebula when a clear opening in the clouds appeared, but it quickly closed in a matter of minutes after taking a few bad shoots. Below are the images of Venus I took that somewhat worth saving.

Images of Venus through my 90mm f/11

Click to view an enlarged image.           Click to view an enlarged image.

Here are two images of Venus taken at prime focus using my 90mm f/11 refractor and Olympus Evolt E-300 digital SLR. The first image (left) is a 1/80 second exposure, and the second image (right) is 1/50 of a second; ISO 400. As you can see, Venus is now showing a slight crescent phase, which actually revealed an irregular terminator.

 

I wanted to take more images of the Double Cluster, but out of the four 30-second exposures I was able to capture; only one was a keeper. I wish I were able to take even longer exposures. Unfortunately, at present my DSLR is only capable of up to 30-second durations. That is only until I receive my shutter release for the battery unit I will be connecting to the E-300. This will allow me to snag images of up to 8 minutes exposure time. I should be receiving this unit soon. A better EQ would have been of great help too.

The Double Cluster in the 90mm f/11

Click to view an enlarged image.

The Double Cluster in the constellation Perseus as imaged by Mel Dawson out at the FarrOut Observatory. This is a single 30-second prime focus exposure image at ISO 400.

 

During those periods when clouds obscured prime celestial objects of interest, we all would gather around either Bob Stelmock’s observing area, or Kevin Reese’s. Bob was out with his 110mm f/5.9 William Optics Megrez refractor sitting atop a sweet Atlas EQ mount. He also was out with his Challenger RV! Below is a photo of Bob’s setup.

Bob Stelmock's Observing Setup

Click for an enlarged view.

Bob Stelmock truly came prepared for a grand evening. Here we see his 110mm f/5.9 Megrez refractor with Atlas EQ mount connected to his Dell laptop running EQMOD software to control it. A great application Bob is working hard to master. Behind the scenes is Bob’s Challenger RV. Bob will be going to the Winter Star Party 2009 down in Miami with his RV on February 21, thru 28, 2009.

 

As for Kevin Reese, he arrived after dark at the site with his wife Pat. He brought along his TeleVue 5” f/5.2 NP127 Apochromatic refractor and his 80mm. Both telescopes were sitting atop a modified Atlas EQ. Indeed an awesome telescope array. We tried checking out several objects in the NP127 using his TeleVue Nagler 22mm eyepiece, but the skies were just horrible. Even though the sucker holes were few, and opened to nothing interesting! We tried catching the Double Cluster through the 127mm TeleVue, but the sucker holes would close up. I only wish I had taken a picture of his setup. But before I knew it, Kevin had started packing up after the skies failed to clear up by 22:00, and he and Pat left around 22:45. No sweat! There will be other times for sure.

Later on at around 23:00, a leading edge of clearing to the northwest moving to the southeast pushed over the area revealing pristine skies. As Dennis predicted earlier after surveying the satellite imagery on NOAA's site. By then I had packed up my things and placed them in the 1997 Malibu. Below is an image of my setup for the night.

 My Meager Observing Setup

Click for an enlarged view.

Here is my setup for the night’s FOO observing session. We have here my Hybridized Konus 90mm f/11 refractor, with Olympus Evolt E-300 DSLR attached. To the lower right of the photo, you can see my 80mm f/6 APO triplet refractor sitting in my eyepiece case waiting its turn to be trained on the night’s sky. But, I decided to stick with the 90mm for the duration.

So with all my scopes put away, and Kevin leaving, I hung out with Dennis and Bob to take in some views through their instruments. Dennis’ C-11 NexStar GPS SCT was trained on Saturn with a 9mm ocular inserted in a William Optics 2” star diagonal. With the rings nearly edge-on, it was indeed a beautiful site, reminiscent of an olive with a toothpick through its center. Saturnian Martini’s anyone! We also checked out the open galactic cluster M37 and the Andromeda Galaxy M31 in the 11” SCT. What a view that was! Dennis used his 32mm eyepiece. I am not completely certain, but I believe both of the eyepieces Dennis used were Meade’s.

 Now with the sky being glorious, I was considering resetting up my equipment again. But, it was kind of late, so I decided not to. Then I proceeded over to Bob’s arrangement. He was very excited with working with EQMOD; a cool telescope navigation software application compatible with a number of mid and high-end equatorial mounts. Despite some issues Bob will have to iron out with the software, he was very good at working with it. With additional time, I am sure he will have mastered it. We looked at M37 in Auriga through his 110mm f/5.9 Megrez. But, Bob’s main focus was on calibrating the Atlas drive to the EQMOD software application.

 At around 00:30, I decided to call it quits and take the 50-mile trek back home. Though it could have been a better night, I was very happy attending. I only wish Curt Walker, and Carlos Solis would have been there. Well, until the next FarrOut Observatory observing session…

 

…Clear Skies, Forever!!!