A Night Between Hurricanes at Kaʻohe

Our monthly dark skies star party had been originally planned for the night of July 27th, a few days before full Moon. With the governor’s emergency order all access to the mauna was closed, and the gals at the DLNR office let me know I could not get a permit. With that I put out a message I hate to post… Star party cancelled.

The NexStar 11 setup under the Milky Way at Kaʻohe
The NexStar 11 setup under the Milky Way at Kaʻohe, photo processed with Prisma

One week later and things look better, the emergency order has been rescinded and we again have access to the mauna, no problem getting our permit.

The problem this time looked to be weather, no big problem… Just a couple of hurricanes.

While Hurricane Erick had been a a class 3 hurricane, it weakened to a tropical storm as it passed just south of the island. Late in the week we got heavy rains and very windy weather.

Hawaii straddled by hurricanes
Hawaii straddled by hurricanes… again.

Hurricane Flossie likewise is weakening and is currently forecast to brush the north and east sides of the island as a tropical storm. This left one possible day in the middle with a slightly hopeful forecast, fortunately Saturday night.

With Saturday afternoon not looking completely bad the emails started bouncing about, a few folks were willing to give it a try. A partial overcast with some clearing greeted us at the site.

As I put it… Better than I feared, worse than I hoped.

Seeing a few stars peeking through haze and clouds we setup equipment with hope for better. We were rewarded for our perseverance… Shortly after sunset the last raft of high clouds moved off to the west leaving the Milky Way shining clear above Mauna Loa. We got lucky between hurricanes.

The rest of the night was quite nice, the occasional wisp of cloud drifting through, but plenty of dark sky to explore. Those who decided to go despite the cloudy afternoon were few… Seven folks with four telescopes; Andre and Anna, Cathie, Andrew with a couple friends, and myself in the dark.

The night was warm and quite pleasant, with a gentle breeze coming down the slope. The seeing could have been better, but we could still make out the Great Red Spot and a moon shadow crossing the face of Jupiter. I counted four moons around Saturn with the NexStar 11; Rhea, Dione and Tethys quite visible, with Titan well off to the side.

NGC6723 An excellent globular, bright, large, very concentrated, now did Messier and Méchain miss this one when they got the nearby M70 and M54?

NGC6496 An odd globular cluster that does not exhibit the usual round structure and bright core, rather it is a 3′ diameter patch of unresolved stars, a bar of brighter stars transits the body east to west, a brighter star on the west end of the bar

NGC6541 A very nice classic globular, large, bright, fullt resolved, a brighter 11th magnitude star in the northeastern quadrant, the halo seems to extend for some ways out from the core with fainter stars

Looking at Saturn with Cathie I realized I could not see the inner moons in the glare from Saturn. Glare? Where is that coming from? The corrector plate is beginning to dew. I put my little dew heater and the cover plate on the telescope and grabbed the spicy shrimp roll from the cooler.

Cathie at the 'Scope
Cathie enjoying a view of M17 in the 11″ NexStar

I spent much of the evening chatting and showing other folks, answering a lot of questions, and sharing views in the ‘scope. Plus sharing a package of Oreo cookies!

IC1297 A faint star with a small halo, less than an arcminute across, round slight green color, small, faint

NGC6729 A small knot of nebulosity surrounding the faint star R CrA, about 2′ across, the second star T CrA not visible

NGC6818 A neat round disk, bright, small, less than 1′ diameter, slightly greenish, round, no central star visible

As usual it was dew that shut me down, the third time the corrector plate dewed over I threw in the towel. I have said this before… I need to get a dew shield for the Nexstar. It was a little after midnight when I packed up the gear and headed back down the mauna.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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