Jump to content


Photo

Obs. Report--Port Crescent State Park, 6/26/2014

  • Please log in to reply
21 replies to this topic

#1 Phillip Creed

Phillip Creed

    Idiot Seeking Village

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 2087
  • Joined: 25 Jul 2006
  • Loc: Canton, OH

Posted 28 June 2014 - 11:54 AM

FYI—Long Post Ahead. Grab a cup of coffee, warm up some cold pizza, etc…

I am currently visiting my in-laws in Lexington, MI, about 20 miles north of Port Huron. My wife and I brought the little ones along on what amounts to a mini-vacation in the “Thumb” region of Michigan, and with extra sets of eyes to look over the kids, this ol’ bear got a nightly furlough to do some observing after all requisite cub duty obligations were fulfilled.

I had been e-mailing Syed Saifullah (CN—“Starman81”) back and forth about the possibility of doing some observing while I was up here and we agreed that further north along the “Thumb” was the target region. We decided yesterday to go to Port Crescent State Park, about 6 miles west of Port Austin.
Our site was the day use area west of the main campgrounds in the larger parking lot.

I arrived there around 9 p.m. in order to relax and enjoy a leisurely set-up. I don’t know why I was in a hurry, as it was abundantly clear the sun was still well up. At almost exactly 44N latitude, PCSP is closer in latitude to the U.P. than it is the Indiana or Ohio border, and being toward the western end of the Eastern (U.S.) Time Zone means *late* sunsets. Exactly how Michiganders get their children to bed before 9 p.m. is a bit of a mystery to this Ohioan.

Still, the fading moments of sunset gave me some time to wander around, and I’m glad I did. There are two nearby vistas that are within a few minutes’ walk, one a nature observation area and a small hill overlooking Saginaw Bay. Port Crescent State Park is west of the tip of the “Thumb”, and the SW-NE shoreline orientation means the (mostly onshore) winds form dunes that more resemble the shores of Lake Michigan than those of Lake Huron. Both vistas offer unique scenery that made me deeply regret forgetting my camera.

Sunset finally took place around 9:25 p.m. Syed and his friend Rick Arzadon arrived just prior to 10 p.m., with still plenty of available light, to the point of being alien to this lifelong Ohio resident. I had my alt-az tripod-mounted 8” f/4.9 Lockwood/Orion hybrid, Rick brought an Orion 10” XTi, and Syed brought an 11” f/4.3 Teeter STS dob with an equatorial platform—oh, did I forget to mention the Zambuto mirror tucked away in the optical engine room?

High clouds covered most of the sky until close to midnight, but they didn’t take too much observing time away due to what I like to call the Michigan Eternadusk—that loooooong wait for twilight to end around the solstice.

Once the skies did clear, though, it was well worth the wait. SQM readings started around 21.1, but quickly shot past 21.4. The Cygnus Milky Way was especially vivid and broad, and the rest of the Milky Way was richly textured and detailed. I’d like to say I could see the Hercules Cluster with the naked eye, but that’s not true. I could see BOTH (M13 and M92), and even the latter wasn’t that hard. For my eyes, NLM was in the low-7s, comparable to some of the best spots East of the Mississippi. The northern half of the sky is about as dark as dark can get, as it looks over several hundred miles of open water and, beyond that, remote portions of Canada. It would be difficult to find a spot within a few hours’ drive of metro Detroit that would offer better views of the aurora borealis than this spot. There’s only a tiny bit of skyglow towards the south (Bad Axe, and possibly very distant skyglow from metro Detroit) and southwest (probably Saginaw); the rest is stargazing nirvana. Syed asked me, “so you like the place?”, and I jokingly responded, “wellllll…yeah, it’ll work in a pinch”. I have pretty high standards for observing sites, and this spot met them with room to spare. I’d easily rate this spot in the same league as Calhoun County Park near Grantsville, WV.

Here are some of the highlights of the night:

M5—Rick had this in his 10 XTi at 86x with his 14ES-82, and I just love how the side chains of stars spill out from the core, similar to the layout of M42’s nebulous “wings”. The 14ES-82 is often considered the “dog” of the ES-82’s due to field curvature, and while it’s there—and my eyes are sensitive to it—the field curvature didn’t seem that bad, even with a 10” f/4.7 w/o coma correction. It really is a good eyepiece at a very reasonable price.

NGC 7000—I had the Paracorr in the scope most of the night, which effectively makes my scope an 8” f/5.7. Naturally, one might ask, “why not just get an 8” f/6? No Paracorr required.” One of my select answers would be, “THIS object.” Having an 8” f/4.9 means the 30ES-82 w/o Paracorr gulps up about 2-1/2 TFOV if you remove the Paracorr, enough to easily frame the North American Nebula. But the real treat was when the Orion Ultrablock (UHC narrow-band light pollution filter) came to the party. Getting the North American and Pelican Nebula in the same field of view was just awesome.

M13—Definitely the highlight of the night. The seeing wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely above average. Syed said, “I’m going to break M13”, and his weapon of choice was a 6mm Delos (230X w/Paracorr). Experienced observers caution that a telescope must be thought of as a *system*, not merely an *instrument*. For portable aperture, it’s hard to beat a system of a Zambuto mirror, a buttery-smooth Teeter dob, a Feather touch focuser, a tracking platform, a Paracorr and a 6mm Delos. “Busting” M13 was an understatement. The cluster resolved to the core, the “Propellor” stood out like a sore thumb, and with the tracking platform engaged, it was like orbiting M13. Words just get in the way, and yet I’m foolishly trying to convey the experience in written form. Prior to observing, I said, “Syed, don’t sell that scope”. Upon seeing M13 broken apart like diamonds-on-velvet, I revised that assertion—“Syed, don’t *EHH-VERRR* sell that scope.”

IC 4617—I had given some thought to going for IC-1296, the 14th magnitude galaxy next to M57, but I could almost hear my Lockwood mirror trash talking me, ala Richard-Sherman style [“You’re going to send a scrub like IC-1296 to challenge me?! “] On the heels of the immaculate view of M13 through the 11”, I thought—“fine. Let’s go for IC-4617”. Yes, I was going for a 15th-magnitude galaxy with an 8” scope. I’ve got “Idiot Seeking Village” next to my name for a reason.
Strategy? Find M13 (not hard), then go about halfway between it and—due to really dark skies—the laughably-easy 12th-magnitude NGC 6207. There’s a parallelogram of 14th-magnitude stars that’s next to IC-4617, and that’s a challenge in and of itself for an 8” scope. The galaxy is very small, and thus high power won’t extend it out that much. Once I found that area, I popped in the 7XW to further darken the sky background and draped a shirt over my head to block out all extraneous peripheral light. The parallelogram stood out; all four stars were easily visible. And there it was! A very, very faint “star” that popped in and out of my averted vision. Surprisingly, I found I could hold it about 2/3 of the time, as I normally consider a 50% “hold” rate to be a confirmation.

M101—This low-surface brightness galaxy sprawls out over a large chunk of territory, and it doesn’t lend itself well to detailed observation…unless you’ve got a really dark sky. With the 14mm Delos (82X), the dim, ghostly spiral arms just spilled out all over the place.

M51—I didn’t get the chance to see this in the 11”, but my 8” was a plenty of firepower in a sky this dark. I could easily make out the “Lightbridge” with the 14mm Delos, and loading in the 7XW (164X) brought out the dust detail in the spiral arms.

Rick’s 10” had an excellent view with the 14ES-82 in the focuser. The extra aperture definitely brought out more in the way of spiral detail.

NGC 6946—This is one of the brightest galaxies that few know about because it’s tucked away in Cepheus. But it’s also face-on, so the surface brightness is fairly low. From our Stillwell site near Millersburg, OH, I can see the two brightest spiral arms with my 12”. I decided to throw this challenge to my 8” scope. I needn’t worry. The 14mm Delos hinted at a set of nebulous “wings” where the spiral arms should be, and the 10mm Delos confirmed the wings’ presence, curvature, and orientation.

Sagittarius Star Cloud—Once again, an object where I’m glad I had an 8” f/4.9 at the ready vs. an 8” f/6. Taking the Paracorr and loading in the 30ES-82 artillery piece brought out the cloud in its entirety, with just enough space to frame it and provide context. Embedded cluster NGC 6603 added a nice touch, as well.

That gave me a good peek at the pool. Syed’s 11” paired with a 13mm Ethos allowed one to simply swim in a sea of stars. Panning around the Sagittarius Star Cloud was like a spiritual experience, with NGC 6603 resolving as a nice bonus.

NGC 6520 + Barnard 86—A small star cluster, especially one competing with its larger brethren in Sagittarius, would normally not provide much reason to seek it out…unless it’s next to a nice blob of dust. Dark skies are a must to appreciate “The Ink Spot”, but PCSP definitely had them. My best view was with the 10mm Delos (115X).

Double Cluster—Another “swim” amongst the stars with Syed’s 11” + Ethos. Syed initially thought he was seeing a clump at the periphery of one of the clusters when he realized he’d gotten both in the same FOV. There’s something special about a premium mirror and an Ethos. It’s a combo that's a match made in heaven.

Stephan’s Quintet—My last “challenge” object of the night for my 8” scope. Four of the galaxies were easily visible with the 10mm Delos (115X), but I knew I needed a bit more to split NGC 7318-A and –B. Enter the 7XW, which proved to be veritable galaxy killer. At 164X, I had juuuuust enough power to differentiate the two nuclear regions.

Veil Nebula—This was the last thing I looked at prior to packing it in at 2:45 a.m. Both Rick and Syed had great views of the eastern loop (NGC 6992 and NGC6995) in their respective telescopes equipped with O-III filters. The “hooks”/”fangs” in the eastern loop of the Veil seemed especially prominent.

The night was one of the finest ones I’ve had under the stars. It goes to show that the most important astronomical accessory isn’t found in your eyepiece case. That honor always goes to the folks around you that are as dedicated and passionate about the hobby and appreciate a night under the stars as much as you do. It’s a “force multiplier” to the experience. Get some good people, good gear and good skies together, and you’ll have some good times. To quote Kenny Chesney, “Drink it up. ‘Cuz that’s the good stuff.”

Syed and Rick stayed at a local motel, but yours truly made the 75-mile trek back to Lexington. Not one of my brighter moments; it was an 80-minute drive that was should have been a full 90 minutes were I not speeding. When I got back to Lexington at 4:15 a.m., the northeastern sky was already being washed out by the brightening dawn. Exhausted, I went to bed, but with the knowledge that I had one of the more memorable observing sessions I’ve ever had.

Clear Skies,
Phil

#2 Dave M

Dave M

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 8189
  • Joined: 03 Aug 2004
  • Loc: Ohio

Posted 29 June 2014 - 01:42 PM

Great! report Phil, very enjoyable read.. Glad you got a ferlow from cub duty and also found what sounds like a great site up North, bet it would be nice for Aurora.

#3 Phillip Creed

Phillip Creed

    Idiot Seeking Village

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 2087
  • Joined: 25 Jul 2006
  • Loc: Canton, OH

Posted 29 June 2014 - 09:16 PM

Dave, this spot would be *great* for aurora observing, minus the Michigan Eterna-Dusk. The north is as dark as dark gets, as there's at least 150 miles of nothing but open water in that direction.

Clear Skies,
Phil

#4 Steve Darden

Steve Darden

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 545
  • Joined: 29 Jul 2007
  • Loc: GA

Posted 30 June 2014 - 05:57 AM

Wow!!! Thanks for sharing.

#5 Starman81

Starman81

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 1990
  • Joined: 06 Mar 2008
  • Loc: Metro Detroit, MI, USA

Posted 30 June 2014 - 06:54 PM

A great report indeed for a great night! It was our pleasure, Phil! Port Crescent really did live up to the expectations being a dark green zone on the map, though the SQM readings topped out at 21.43 if I remember correctly. If the CSC is to be believed, the transparency was only 3/5, so on a really good night, I think we could have gotten into the 21.6 range.

I am putting together my report piece-meal as I find time. The luxury that I have is the audio recording that I do while Phil drafted his report from memory.

#6 Phillip Creed

Phillip Creed

    Idiot Seeking Village

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 2087
  • Joined: 25 Jul 2006
  • Loc: Canton, OH

Posted 30 June 2014 - 08:12 PM

If the CSC is to be believed, the transparency was only 3/5, so on a really good night, I think we could have gotten into the 21.6 range.


Definitely. As good as the skies were, I could tell it still wasn't up to its potential. A late summer/early fall night there with Canadian high pressure building in would truly be a sight to behold.

Clear Skies,
Phil

#7 rick-SeMI

rick-SeMI

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 232
  • Joined: 08 Jan 2011
  • Loc: Michigan - USA

Posted 01 July 2014 - 09:30 AM

Phil
Excellent report!!
Very enjoyable being up there sharing the dark skies with you and Syed.

Hope we can do it again in the near future.

The climax to the night, for me, was the Veil Nebula.
First time I have seen it. Thanks for the suggestion!


<CS> Rick


#8 bassplayer142

bassplayer142

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 594
  • Joined: 03 Oct 2011
  • Loc: Michigan

Posted 02 July 2014 - 11:12 AM

Haven't been on this forum for a while for a variety of reasons. But I can vouch that this is a great spot for observing. Been there a few times and wouldn't mind meeting up with some fellow cloudynights members sometime.

Thanks for the report!

#9 Phillip Creed

Phillip Creed

    Idiot Seeking Village

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 2087
  • Joined: 25 Jul 2006
  • Loc: Canton, OH

Posted 06 July 2014 - 01:21 PM

My wife and I are contemplating another trip up to Lexington in the August/September time frame. I really want to give the spot another shot. I found a way to get my 12" Skywatcher in the van with the tube nestled inside the base to take up less horizontal space, so if I get there anytime other than Christmas, I'm thinking to bring out the bigger scope.

Based on light pollution maps, if you go the other way from Port Austin on M-25, there are places about halfway between Port Austin and Harbor Beach in the dark-blue, just miles removed from gray on the 2006 light pollution map. There's a park in this area (Lighthouse County Park), but I've scouted it out and it's hopelessly lit up.

Clear Skies,
Phil

#10 Garry

Garry

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 95
  • Joined: 01 Oct 2006
  • Loc: Belleville, MI

Posted 06 July 2014 - 10:41 PM

Phil,

Excellent report.

So you were the guys the park ranger told me about, Sun night 6/29,
that had been up earlier in the week. I also went up 7/4 just for the night again. My standard SQM reading was similar at 21.44. Have had an average reading last Aug of about 21.50 at zenith with readings of 21.60-21.70 pointing in the direction of the bowl of the little dipper out over the lake.

An alternate Blue zone to try would be Delaware Day Park
on M25 about halfway between Lexington & Port Crescent.
CDSC Delaware
Here is a link to some photos of both parks: Port Crescent & Delaware Parks
Be sure to click on the Dedication Ceremony photo to read
a casual report of my first visit.

More frequent closer to home observing is done at Lake Hudson. Port Crescent is the better location however.

Syed & Rick, have mentioned to JimMo and he's interested in going to Port Crescent also.

Garry

#11 Starman81

Starman81

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 1990
  • Joined: 06 Mar 2008
  • Loc: Metro Detroit, MI, USA

Posted 07 July 2014 - 04:23 PM

Haven't been on this forum for a while for a variety of reasons. But I can vouch that this is a great spot for observing. Been there a few times and wouldn't mind meeting up with some fellow cloudynights members sometime.

Thanks for the report!


Chris, it was your reports from 2012 that put the spark in us to give PCSP a visit. Rick got a chance to go that year, but I did not and then 2013 there was some major construction in the area and other 'life events' that kind of killed my chances. I'm glad we were able to give it a go in 2014!

#12 Phillip Creed

Phillip Creed

    Idiot Seeking Village

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 2087
  • Joined: 25 Jul 2006
  • Loc: Canton, OH

Posted 07 July 2014 - 06:57 PM

Port Crescent would be a *great* spot for a star party. The parking lot we used was pretty big, and there's two others in the "day use area" that have some clearing in them. The nearby pavilion is a ready-made spot for speakers, and proximity to Port Austin gives one a sense of safety that you don't normally get in spots this dark.

I couldn't get over just how picturesque the view was on top of the dune behind the pavilion, too. I find the Thumb of Michigan to have an almost maddening lack of scenery and topography, but I got to admit--that beach vista is stunning.

Clear Skies,
Phil

#13 MawkHawk

MawkHawk

    Messenger

  • *****
  • Posts: 408
  • Joined: 23 Aug 2009
  • Loc: SE Michigan, USA

Posted 08 July 2014 - 10:13 AM

Hey, guys. How do you actually get into the day use area after hours? Isn't it gated?

#14 Starman81

Starman81

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 1990
  • Joined: 06 Mar 2008
  • Loc: Metro Detroit, MI, USA

Posted 08 July 2014 - 07:46 PM

Phil,

Excellent report.

So you were the guys the park ranger told me about, Sun night 6/29,
that had been up earlier in the week. I also went up 7/4 just for the night again. My standard SQM reading was similar at 21.44. Have had an average reading last Aug of about 21.50 at zenith with readings of 21.60-21.70 pointing in the direction of the bowl of the little dipper out over the lake.

An alternate Blue zone to try would be Delaware Day Park
on M25 about halfway between Lexington & Port Crescent.
CDSC Delaware
Here is a link to some photos of both parks: Port Crescent & Delaware Parks
Be sure to click on the Dedication Ceremony photo to read
a casual report of my first visit.

More frequent closer to home observing is done at Lake Hudson. Port Crescent is the better location however.

Syed & Rick, have mentioned to JimMo and he's interested in going to Port Crescent also.

Garry


Yep, we were them. :grin:

It's funny that you mention Delaware Park; Phil also mentioned that as a possibility but for some reason we were just drawn to Port Crescent, though Delaware Park should be a bit darker (blue vs dark green). I could not find it on Google or Bing Maps beforehand so I really didn't get a chance to research it. But now that you made me aware it is on Clear Sky Charts, I was able to finally nail down its location.

Your pictures show some nice flat land and really nice horizons. Not to mention the beautiful Lake nearby. The sign does say 'Day Use' but I'm sure they wouldn't mind our 'peaceful' activity. And if it really is darker, being closer (only 2 hrs away compared to ~3 for PCSP) it is definitely worth looking in to. The more and more I think of it... Wow... A blue zone only 2 hrs away?? That could be a game-changer!

#15 Garry

Garry

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 95
  • Joined: 01 Oct 2006
  • Loc: Belleville, MI

Posted 08 July 2014 - 10:14 PM

MawkHawk,

Since the dedication as a Dark Sky Preserve last year the gate is not locked and open to all night observing.

Garry

#16 Garry

Garry

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 95
  • Joined: 01 Oct 2006
  • Loc: Belleville, MI

Posted 08 July 2014 - 10:36 PM

Syed,

The park rangers seem to be on a schedule to check the park out about 12:30am the last 2 times I was there. They stop & chat for a few minutes & I show them a few objects.

The shorter & easier trip for the darker sky is why I am thinking of giving it a try also. About 2:15hrs for me vs 3hrs to PCSP. I like the parking & facilities better at PCSP however.

Delaware Park can be en route to PCPS to stop & check out.

Garry

#17 Phillip Creed

Phillip Creed

    Idiot Seeking Village

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 2087
  • Joined: 25 Jul 2006
  • Loc: Canton, OH

Posted 09 July 2014 - 04:34 AM

Delaware Park looks darker on paper. Reality is, they're probably a wash, but DP is closer to Detroit. I've talked to the Sanilac County Park District, and they leave the gate open at night during the warmer months. They don't care if you're stargazing there at night, either.

Delaware Park is 3.4 miles south of Forestville, MI, or 13.1 miles north of Port Sanilac, MI (SR-46/SR-25 JCT) along M-25. The horizons are pretty decent. The main attraction for me to this spot is that it's only 25 minutes north of my in-laws' house in Lexington. PCSP, though further out, is by far the more picturesque spot.

Travel time from Detroit to Delaware Park is pretty simple if you're heading up I-94 East. It's an hour beyond the time it takes to get to Port Huron.

Clear Skies,
Phil

#18 Garry

Garry

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 95
  • Joined: 01 Oct 2006
  • Loc: Belleville, MI

Posted 09 July 2014 - 11:30 PM

Phil,

Thanks for finding out that we can observe all night at Delaware Park & that they don't lock us out. The 94East route would be the one I would use.
That 25 min trip from your in-laws now is just a wee bit close :) That's
shorter than I drive to work!

Garry

#19 Galaxy_Mike

Galaxy_Mike

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 82
  • Joined: 03 Feb 2014

Posted 12 July 2014 - 08:50 PM

Congratulations on an excellent session. That was an enjoyable report. I've had good luck looking out over water, although it doesn't sound like you looked over water all the time.

#20 MawkHawk

MawkHawk

    Messenger

  • *****
  • Posts: 408
  • Joined: 23 Aug 2009
  • Loc: SE Michigan, USA

Posted 14 July 2014 - 05:46 AM

Does anyone know what facilities are available at Delaware Park? I'v read that there are/were some rustic campsites and pit toilets there, but I've also read that it is undeveloped.

#21 Phillip Creed

Phillip Creed

    Idiot Seeking Village

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 2087
  • Joined: 25 Jul 2006
  • Loc: Canton, OH

Posted 14 July 2014 - 05:08 PM

I don't think Delaware Park has, well, anything in the way of facilities, other than a nice parking lot to get a view of Lake Huron. It's been sadly neglected; Sanilac County does a good job maintaining other parks, particularly Lexington Park.

What is does have, though, is dark skies. The park is far enough off SR-25 and over a fortuitously-placed ridge to block out any road or local lighting. I haven't observed there at night, but it's readily apparent there's no interference from local light pollution in an region that's already dark.

There are places to stay in Port Sanilac, about 15 minutes south of the park. Lexington, about 25 minutes south on M-25, also has some places to stay.

Clear Skies,
Phil

#22 MawkHawk

MawkHawk

    Messenger

  • *****
  • Posts: 408
  • Joined: 23 Aug 2009
  • Loc: SE Michigan, USA

Posted 14 July 2014 - 06:47 PM

Thank you,sir!






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics