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What Are YOUR Conditions Required for Observing

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#1 JayinUT


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Posted 16 December 2012 - 09:02 PM

When I first got into the hobby I would observe at any stage of the lunar cycle except for full moon. I learned over time to adjust what objects I went after depending on the cycle of the moon. My observing was mainly done in the backyard and in terms of conditions, as stated, I would observe during most phases of the moon, and I would go out in somewhat questionable cloudy conditions. I would never go out during rain or snow though (of course).

Then I discovered the wonders of observing at a dark site and the vast majority of my observing now moved to dark site locations. My backyard observing became lunar and double star with some open clusters observing. The rest I kept for dark site locations. I still went to my dark sites even with cloud cover.

As time went on I began to be more particular, more picking about when I would go out. To drive 45 minutes to an hour and a half to some very dark sites and set up and observe, I usually now want good transparency and good seeing or better. I won't go if it looks to cloudy and find that even for setting up in the backyard, requires good or better than good conditions.

So, the question I poise is what conditions are necessary for you to drive to a dark site to observe and what conditions are necessary for you to observe from your backyard? Is there a difference?

#2 Dennis_S253


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Posted 16 December 2012 - 10:38 PM

Well, I've never driven to a dark site...yet. I mainly stay at home. Last night wasn't that great but I viewed 6 or 7 open clusters. Tried M1 but it wasn't very good. This year my goal is all 110 Messier's. I found M74 a couple weeks back. I think Galaxys are gonna be the toughest. I just like setting up, some nights are better than others. I check 5 or 6 weather web sites. If the IR or water vapor looks bad I wait till I see the sky for myself. There's plenty of things to do if I don't set up. Or just relax and watch a movie.

#3 Feidb



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Posted 16 December 2012 - 11:17 PM

Because I drive 42+ miles to my dark sky site, I gauge the weather very carefully. However, that's all moot if I can't get anyone to go out with me. So, with that in mind, if it looks the least bit promising and another warm body is willing, I'll give it a try. What that really means is that if the Clear Sky Clock shows no or almost no clouds, no or almost no wind, a clear or almost clear transparency, I go for it. I don't get too worked up about seeing as I'm not interested in planets or splitting double stars. However, sometimes, though rarely, especially around Las Vegas, the Clear Sky Clock has been wrong and if me and that warm body are willing, we'll risk the gas and go for it. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. The odds are still better than the slots in town.

If the moon is up, forget it. It's an outreach night. I've been at this way too long to spend the gas money to drive to a dark site with more than a sliver of moon, or one that's going to be in the way during much of my observing time. Just a matter of economics. Plus, it doesn't do any good for the faint fuzzies I go for. I save those nights for our monthy outreach events.

I'll take risks with a tank full of gas, but only so far and I'm not one to try and set up in my very light-polluted back yard just to look at a washed out object I've already seen a thousand times in 45 years under much better skies. Does that sound jaded? Not really. I'm just being practical.

For someone new to the hobby, I'd be out there every night I could, looking at everthing I could get in the eyepiece, no matter where I was at.

#4 DavidC



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Posted 17 December 2012 - 12:16 AM

No moon, or no moon 'till way later on. The moon tends to wash out a lot of dso's and makes them harder to see, and they just don't look the same. No lights interfering with my observing. I have a neighbor who keeps floodlights on at nite, who's kids play out in their back yard, and I can't observe from there any more. I try to go out as often as I can, I find myself often going to a darker area of town. Darker skies for me are about 30 miles away, and I can't afford often to go to darker skies, maybe every other month. The rest I just go my favorite darker area of town. Planets, open clusters's, some globular cluster's and double stars are fairly easy to observe from my darker area of town. There are quite a few dso's that are observable, but not as good looking as they are in darker skies. And I volunteer twice a month at an observatory that has a 16 inch meade sct that I get to show the public dso's that are visible in my lp skies, and when there is not anybody present, I program the scope to go to things that I want to observe....

#5 Astrojensen


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Posted 17 December 2012 - 04:01 AM

I observe as often as I can. If it's not too cloudy or hazy and I'm not overly tired from work, I'll be out there, more or less. The Moon is a big target for me and I am more likely to go out for half an hour on a so-so worknight evening if the Moon is high in the sky than if it's not. I can't get properly dark adapted in half an hour, but the Moon doesn't need it and I can get some great observing in. If I have even just an hour of moon-free medium-sized sucker holes and am not too tired, out comes the 12" dob! I do have quite a dark backyard, which of course helps tremendously, as I don't have to go anywhere to get very good deep-sky views.

I see a lot of full moon bashing here, but people are doing themselves a huge disservice by not observing the full moon. First of all, the Moon is only really full during a lunar eclipse and you don't want to miss it then! At all other times, there is a little terminator still visible near the south or north lunar pole or around the east or west limb. These are the most fascinating regions on the Moon, with features few amateur astronomers observe. For many years during my amateur astronomy career, these regions weren't even photographed and some parts almost unknown! I could literally explore unknown regions on our nearest neighbor in space with my 60mm telescope! Of course I wasn't experienced enough to really be able to do any meaningful work, but the love for these regions have remained. Full moon is also the time to observe the lunar Mare and the crater rays. Some areas of the Mare are so pockmarked with tiny, white craterlets, that it looks like a star field. In good seeing, it can be extremely beautiful. The Mare also display delicate and subtle colors and hues. Many craters show interesting features not visible when close to the terminator. Challenges abound. Some rilles can even be seen during full moon, as thin, white streaks in the gray regiolith.

And the best part? It doesn't require dark skies or dark adaption or even a large telescope. A 60mm is quite sufficient to see a lot of what I've mentioned.

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark

#6 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 04:42 AM

I observe as often as I can. If it's not too cloudy or hazy and I'm not overly tired from work, I'll be out there, more or less.


If it's clear or even partially clear, I will out there in the backyard with some sort of telescope looking at something of interest.

As far as traveling to a dark site. These days my dark site is our little hideaway in the mountains about 70 miles east from here. It is on the east side of the Laguna mountains and most often clear, those mountains do a good job of holding the clouds back. I tend to make the drive for the weekend unless it is certain that it will be cloudy...

My wife knows the drill.. on trip out, invariably I will see some clouds somewhere and voice my concern that it will be cloudy and it will be another lost weekend... It's almost always clear.

This weekend, with a series of storms passing through and probable snow on the ground, I stayed home...


#7 nicknacknock



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Posted 17 December 2012 - 07:29 AM

Skies with SQM readings around 21.
4 observing locations within an hour's driving.
Usually 4-5 sessions monthly when the moon is gone.
At backyard with my AT72ED for some lunar viewing on occasion.


#8 edwincjones


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Posted 17 December 2012 - 07:52 AM

now, I am enjoying the night and morning sky naked eye when I walk my dog


#9 FirstSight


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Posted 17 December 2012 - 09:44 AM

FOR OBSERVING SESSIONS AT HOME: my overall situation makes a spontaneous decision to do an observing session in my side yard outside my garage so quick and easy to get set up and going that the requisite weather threshold is rather modest. My equipment is in my garage at near-ambient temp, with my dob and usually my NP101 already set up just needing to be lifted or rolled outside (and collimated in the case of the dob). Generally, I can complete moving a self-sufficient setup of either scope outside within five minutes or so; ditto for moving it back in when done. In winter, in addition to cloud conditions (or absence thereof), a key consideration when it's chilly (below around 40 deg F) is whether the sky conditions are good enough to make it worth putting on enough clothes to stay out comfortably for more than a brief time; the colder and windier, the less motivated I am.

At home, the threshold is also a bit different depending on whether the moon is in the sky or not. If there's no moon in the sky, partly cloudy's ok so long as the sucker-holes are sufficiently big and slow-moving that I have a few minutes to scan a given area or gaze a particular object before I need to move on. Even so, what I do need is decent transparency in the sucker-holes. There are nights, especially during summer, which though nominally clear are simply too hazy to make any attempt at deep-sky (even just aimless gawking around where the summer Milky Way would be if I could see it) not wortwhile, though sometimes I'll still do a quick grab n'go session just to view a well-placed planet. IF OTOH the moon is in the sky, I'm more likely to skip a clear night if it's more than around half-full, but more likely to go out if it's partly cloudy but the clouds aren't thick enough to obscure the moon for more than brief very transient periods. Even when nothing but the moon is visible through clouds, I find the view of clouds scudding across the moon's surface in a low-power widefield eyepiece to be magically beautiful and relaxingly meditative.

AS TO NECESSARY CONDITIONS FOR AN AWAY-FROM-HOME OUTING: The requisite conditions are much more demanding, since our club's main "dark site" (more like only semi-dark) involves nearly an hour trip each way, and our secondary site (darker) is nearly an hour and a half each way. I require the moon to be absent for at least several hours, either setting early or rising late, plus reliably clear skies and at least intermediate quality transparency. Otherwise, the overhead of loading my gear for the trip out, travel each way, setup at the site, and the reverse coming home are simply not worth the investment.

#10 sg6



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Posted 17 December 2012 - 09:47 AM

Clear, that I have some idea what to look at/for, that I can be bothered.

#11 Startraffic


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Posted 17 December 2012 - 01:51 PM

If it's reasonable clear, I'll go out. However, I have a dome in my front yard 75ft away from my house, I can be up & running in 10 minutes. My sky sux, but I make up for that in convenience & the amount of time I get observing.

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#12 City Kid

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 04:12 PM

I used to go out anytime it was clear regardless of moon phase, transparency, etc. Now I don't spend an hour driving to my dark site unless the CSC shows mostly dark blue and the moon is mostly absent. When it comes to viewing from my yard I'm not as particular. I'll go out anytime it's clear and I'm in the mood if the transparency is at least fair. Of course if I'm planning on observing planets or the moon I don't care about the transparency. Hazy nights are about the only time the seeing is reasonable in my yard but that has more to do with local conditions than the sky itself.

#13 Dave97402


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Posted 17 December 2012 - 04:36 PM

Being in Oregon, from my backyard, semi clear skies is all that's required.

For dark sky location that we go to, best if warmer weather due to altitude, it's usually too snow packed to get to during the winter.

#14 RAKing


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Posted 17 December 2012 - 04:50 PM

I observe as often as I can. If it's not too cloudy or hazy and I'm not overly tired from work, I'll be out there, more or less.

:waytogo: I try to get out every night I can, also.

I am also blessed with a fairly dark back yard, so I'll set up my gear as soon as the sun sets. I invested a lot of money in my gear and I like to use it as much as possible. I don't think I can wear it out. :lol:

I do a lot of double star observing and variable star estimates, so as long as the target isn't blasted by the moonwash, I can see and enjoy the majority of my stars during any phase of the moon.

My darker site is about 30 miles farther west and I will go out there on weekends if the weather forecast is good. But home is where the heart is and my home skies are almost 5 mag. on a decent night, so I stay in the back yard most of the time.



#15 mountain monk

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 05:21 PM

Another fairly dark back yard here--blue zone. If it's clear, I'm usually out, with big binoculars, a refractor, or my new Dob--usually two out of the three.

Darker sites--gray zone--are 1/2 hour north, several of them. I probably average two or three times a month when the road in Grand Teton is open.

Really dark skies--black zone--are an hour away. It has to be clear and moonless for me to make the trip, and as I've gotten older, I want someone to be with me. Only three or four times a year now, alas.

Jon: Yes, it's funny how our wives know us better than we do!

Enjoy the night sky.


#16 csrlice12



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Posted 17 December 2012 - 06:23 PM

My wife tells me I'll have all the time in the world....after I'm dead..... :lol:

#17 bherv


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Posted 17 December 2012 - 07:20 PM

Since I don't observe from home due to trees and light polluted skies, I will try to get up to my dark sky site on weekends around new moon, weather permitting of course. I did go up this Saturday despite the fact clouds were going to be rolling in during the evening. I just wanted to keep my monthly streak going of observing Stephan's Quintet. I could just make it out with the club's 17.5" scope through the thin veil of clouds. That makes 8 months in a row. I usually stay overnight but this was just a 5 hour visit. During the summer months I keep my camper there making it my home away from home. If I go up during the winter months I can sleep in the clubhouse which has a woodstove and a loft for sleeping. Having access to the club's scopes means leaving mine at home. Just grab my eyepiece cases a few other things and off I go. As long as the road is passable I will try to get up there again in January.

#18 Carl Kolchak

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 07:27 PM

I observe from home on my driveway. My scopes are set up and ready to use since they all reside in my garage. I will put up with some clouds especially viewing the Moon and planets but not too many clouds if I'm after doubles or DSOs.

I have never been to a dark site. There are a couple around but I am limited when it comes to travel, so I am content with my observing site(home) for now.

peace & clear skies

#19 Sandytoes1963



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Posted 17 December 2012 - 07:44 PM

I too have set up a nice little spot in my garage and can easily roll out my telescope when the conditions are favorable. I have two choices, the driveway in the front of the garage with lots of room but a few street and occasional head lights or the back which has a sidewalk going from the garage to the Lanai (Pool Area), it is far darker but small paved area. So I think I will pour a nice pad area so I have room to move my rolling chair around.
Here in SW Florida viewing is good year round but it is no fun sitting outside in the summer aka MOSQUITOS....

#20 Carl Kolchak

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 07:57 PM

Sandytoes1963 said,

Here in SW Florida viewing is good year round

Hi Sandytoes, I wish I had your weather here in Northeast Florida. Rain, clouds, more clouds and more rain so far, this "winter" has been locked in a terrible weather pattern... :)

peace & clear skies

#21 roscoe



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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:12 PM

I'm on a farm in the green zone, so every night involves eyeball observing while walking the dog, and often I come in at the end of our 1/2 mile walk to grab my binocs. With my new observatory on hold till spring (but at least the concrete's in!!) the big scope only comes out to play a few times a month, as it has to be set up and taken down each time, so I wait for nights with little moonglow and stable atmosphere. My occasional field trips (about an hour each way) lately involve setting my scope up about 25 feet from Barry's camper......


#22 BigC



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Posted 19 December 2012 - 01:38 AM

Rural location here.

It shouldn't be raining,snowing,clouded over completely,too cold, and I need to not be too tired or have extended workday ahead.

Sky looks great now;I'm going to bed.See above.

#23 Bill Weir

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 02:00 AM

I setup my 20" on a little pad in front of that dome. Inside that dome is the 25" in my signature. This observatory is just a 5 minute drive from my home. My backyard is actually darker because it doesn't have that marina to deal with but it also doesn't have the beautiful unobstructed view to the south. I'm viewing right over top of the Olympic Mountains in Washington State. If the Moon isn't out I can usually be found there.


#24 fvandrog



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Posted 19 December 2012 - 04:00 AM

Considering we've had three cloudless and fogless nights the last six weeks, I am not very picky with regards to the moon. Actually, the moon does make an interesting target even if there is some fog, as does Jupiter -- no need to bother with filters :)

So, basically acceptable conditions for observing are any conditions where something is visible.


#25 csa/montana


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Posted 19 December 2012 - 11:45 AM

Rural location here.

It shouldn't be raining,snowing,clouded over completely,too cold,

This fits my observing conditions, exactly! :grin:

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