Blog - Ahwahnee Hills, August 2013
August 10, 2013 - Ahwahnee Hills Observatory
Ahwahnee Hills Observatory is the name of the private observatory of my friend Jarrod McKnelly, located in the foothills just above Oakhurst in Madera county. The skies are great, with the property being in a blue zone on the edge of a green zone. There is a sky glow to the south from Fresno, and to the southeast from Oakhurst, but the other directions are excellent, and the presence of a really nice observatory with *gasp* electricity!
I had already decided to shoot a bunch of star clusters in Sagittarius, taking advantage of the dark skies and the fact that Sagittarius is still up. With that in mind, I shot M22, M23, M24, M28, and M55, which consist of three globular clusters, an open cluster, and the Sagittarius Star Cloud itself. The fact that I was able to use the same exposure for each one and, therefore, use one set of darks for all five images, really helped to speed things up. I am very happy with the outcome of all five of the images.
This leads me to a rather interesting story. Traditionally, I end each night with an object that requires longer exposures, and then employ the "start the exposures and go to bed" strategy. At home on Saturday morning, I was looking at the various objects in the Eastern sky using Stellarium, and saw a galaxy, M74. After looking up images of it, I decided to image it myself as my final object. Just before going to bed on Saturday night, I looked at APOD (as I usually do), and discovered that, lo and behold, they had chosen a Hubble image of M74 as Sunday's APOD! I was shocked that I had decided, on my own, to image the same object that ended up being an APOD - what are the chances?
Finally, as has become tradition, I used my Rebel XT to take another star trail image, but this time using my 300mm telephoto lens. The slight breeze that came through from time to time that night definitely had an effect on the star trails themselves, and the reduced field of view really shows just how far Polaris is from the real celestial north pole.
This trip also hit another important milestone - I am now up to 56 Messier objects captured, thus making me over halfway to my goal of imaging all 110 Messier objects. Definitely a very productive night!