My primary objective was to conduct a trial run of the using the camper for a dark sky camping trip on a non-critical night from a DSO perspective. As luck would have it, this was the Harvest Moon night, which pretty much relegated the night’s astronomy to the planets.
Set up of the camper (30 minute). and transition into dinner prep and eating went very well. I did a very abbreviated clean up afterward with the idea that final clean up of items used would be the next day at the house. I felt a little rushed transitioning into the astronomy part of the evening. Although I was ready to start polar aligning only 20 minutes after I expected Polaris to be visible (not bad!), I would have like to have had the telescope set up and dinner finished by sunset so that I could rest/relax for about 30 minutes waiting for Polaris to appear. Arrived at the farm at 1750, 1.5 hours before sunset. Maybe arriving 2.5 hours before sunset would have given me a break before starting astronomy.
Astronomy set up was the G11 on the heavy tripod. Telescope was the Meade LX850 (12” f/8). Camera was the ZWO ASI290MM/EFW 8 x 1.25”, and the TV 2.5x PM was in the optical path.
Skies were clear from sunset until about 0100, at which time scattered high thin clouds came in. Dew was manageable most of the night with the dew shield/heater combination on high all night.
I used the 18AH battery to power the laptop via inverter. That battery was down to about 12.1v by the end of the night. I do not know how much longer it would have lasted. I used only one 33 AH battery to power the astronomy equipment, to include the dew heater on high. I think that I had at least another hour before I would need to switch to the second 33 AH battery.
My first target was Saturn. During the first 10 RGB runs, I was not certain that the filter wheel was initialized, so I re-initialized and shot another 10 RGB runs. All total, I shot 20 RGB runs (19ms, 422 gain, 2400 frames/filter). Image has been posted to flickr.
Next was the Moon. I had intended to switch to the Canon for full disk color images, but I was to tired to reconfigure. I did runs with the ASI290MM on Craters Copernicus and Tycho. The data didn’t look good while I was in capture, and I wasn’t able to pull a decent image out, so I threw the data away.
My third target was Jupiter. I shot 10 RGB runs (4.5ms, 408 gain, 2900 frames/filter in 30s. The data looked pretty good as it was coming in. Image has been posted to flickr.
The last target was Mars. It was not elevated nearly enough, but with clouds coming in, optics getting dewy, and astronomers getting tired, Mars was becoming a now or never proposition. I short 10 RGB runs. The data looked horrible coming in. I was not able to pull an acceptable image out of it, as expected, so I threw the data away.
We retired to the camper at about 0140, and woke up after 0700. Coffee was made and we had breakfast snacks to tide us over. Pack up and camper take down went without issue. We left the farm at about 1100.
Other than an allowing more time for setup and dinner, there were no camper issues uncovered that would put a dark clear sky night at risk.
After reconnecting the camper hitch after unloading at Doug’s house, I failed to remove the pop up crank handle from its receptacle, and it apparently fell out on the trip home. I was afraid that was going to happen
To Do Items
- Make a cable that can be run from the solar charging port on the camper to the to the astronomy equipment so that I can use the camper battery as a third back up battery if ever needed.
- Order a new crank handle, and put a Remove Before Flight flag on it to increase visibility. I was pretty sure that at some point I would forget the handle. I have since learned that this is a common occurrence, and replacement handles are readily available.