An innocent email… Anyone interested in a star party this weekend?
Last weekend’s new Moon star party had been a bust, heavy clouds overhead were a disappointment to those of us waiting for a good dark night.
Given the positive response to Norman’s email there seems to be a few folks ready to go despite a bright Moon in the sky. With the weather looking good the Saturday afternoon email flurry showed that a few folks were going, thus I joined in.
As per Mauna Kea normal I drove through the clouds, heavy fog on Saddle Road just a mile from Kaʻohe made the trip seem hopeless. But as I neared the turn I suddenly found myself above the clouds, the bright Moon high over Hualalai.
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.
One week later and things look better, the emergency order has been rescinded and we again have access to the mauna, no problem getting our permit.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.
I was a bit concerned as I drove to the site, a heavy fog all the way up Saddle Road persisted as I turned off on the old Saddle Road to climb the ridge to Kilohana. It was not until halfway up the gravel access road that I broke out of the fog, just a hundred yards before the Kaʻohe site.
On top of the fog it was gorgeous, a beautifully clear sky overhead with the first stars peeking out. Time to setup a telescope!
I brought the restored 8″ Cave Astrola expecting to spend the evening exploring the clusters and nebulae of the southern Milky Way in Scorpio or a bit further south. This rich region would be well positioned through the night.
We had a small group this particular evening, just six of us… Andre and Anna, Maureen, Andrew, Cliff, and myself set up by the gravel pile. There were pleasant conversations in the night, cookies and brownies to share, and views through each other’s telescopes.
A nice night at Kaʻohe last night for the members of the West Hawaii Asrtonomy Club. As usual it was cloudy when we arrived, but cleared just after sunset leaving a very nice sky. While heavy dew shut most of us dawn after 11pm, we had several hours of very nice observing.
A few months back I was reminded that I was remiss in scheduling proper club star parties. Thus I set about fixing that!
What about a site? The MKVIS at Hale Pōhaku is a total zoo lately, too many tourists, folks from the club are hesitant to go there for a good dark experience. it can also be cold and windy up there. Since Vaughn left the island a few months back, no one is using the old upper road site at Puʻu Kuainiho.
Thus I compromised at using my favorite site at Kaʻohe. At 5,800ft the site is lower, warmer, and less windy than the VIS. It also represents about half the drive time it takes to get to the VIS, without the tourist crowd. The site is higher and offers more reliable skies than the Puʻu Kuainiho site
A dark night under the stars! It has been too long… Why not?
After all the work restoring the 20″ Obsession it was time to get it out under the stars for a decent observing run. During the many hours of work I had looked forward to simply using this telescope for a bit. While it would eventually be stored at the observatory and used for outreach, it seemed a shame not to spend a night or two under the stars with this instrument. Not like I need a 20″ telescope, my 18″ is just fine, but I loaded it up just the same, leaving Deep Violet in the garage.
My favorite close by site is KaʻOhe, taking only a twenty minute drive from home to reach. At 5,700 feet on the side of Mauna Kea nearby home does not mean second rate. I really like this spot, the view is spectacular with the coastline below and the Mauna Loa and Hualālai volcanoes dominating the horizon. The entire southern horizon is unobstructed, allowing observations of southern objects right down to the horizon.
Better yet, recent rains meant green grass and a spot near the road maintenance gravel pile was hard packed rock, no dust! The area had even been mown recently! I sometimes have a few uncharitable words to describe DLNR, but not this evening.