October 11, 2008 #051 – Vacation Odyssey Episode 5

After we left our son's home we had a week of vacation left. We decided to cross the mountains and then head north into Wyoming. That evening by luck we found a wonderful remote desert campground in southern Wyoming. There were no lights or light pollution, no other campers, and the moon was not due to make an appearance till almost dawn. It was a sky watchers paradise.

As the sun went down I stood and watched the sky darken. The stars began to appear, with more and more over the next few hours until I reached down to, at about midnight, a magnitude somewhere between 7 and 8 with my old eyes. M31 was amazing, the Coal Sack was as dark as I can ever recall seeing it. I had a hard time taking my eyes off the Milky Way. I do not think that I have ever seen so much even in the 1950's from my boyhood sky in the Midwest.

I must confess I never got out my telescope. I would stand and observe, jumping from one section of the sky to the next, then back again. Occasionally I would look through binocs but not for long. It was an eyes only night for me. A couple of times I caught a few winks in the tent then knowing that new stars were rising in the east I was up and out under the night sky again. I'm sure my wife thought I had lost my mind. My last observing session was just as the eastern night sky was beginning to fade and the crescent moon rose over the cliffs in that direction.

Over the next few days we traveled through the Tetons, Yellow Stone, west over the Big Horn Mountains, through southern South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and then a last minute dash home through the most light polluted skies in the Midwest, Chicago. I know that when I retire I will be spending more desert nights under the stars. Maybe I might get to that telescope!

Clear Sky - Rich

No comments: