GSSP was a success for us this year.
Wednesday night was great for both imaging and observing. Thursday night was a bit soft and hazy. I didn't start an imaging run, but did do some observing until 1am or so.
Friday's forecast didn't look too good, and I didn't think that we were going to get any observing done. But as it got close to dusk, the sky was showing improvement, and I decided to uncover the XX14i and the C14. As it got darker, we started getting a pretty good flow of public night traffic at our site. The sky was mostly overcast, but where it was clear, it was pretty decent. We got good views of Jupiter and Saturn, which are always crowd pleasers. My wife kept the XX14i pointed into Sagittarius. We had clear skies through Cygnus and the summer triangle, so I had the C14 in that area.
When I normally do outreach, I stick to just showpiece objects. But public night at GSSP is a bit different, since the public gets to look through dozens of telescopes. I like to show stuff that is off the beaten path, but still interesting. With what the sky gave us, I figured that I would try the Blinking Planetary. I used the Delos 17.3 eyepiece in the C14, which does a pretty good job of getting the blinking effect. I gave the observers instructions to look into the eyepiece, but off to the side. After noticing the blue ball, I had them look directly at it. This turned out to be a big hit. Just about everyone who looked was shocked to see the nebula disappear and replaced by a star. It led to some good discussions of averted vs direct vision. Another object that I don't normally use in outreach is the Double Double, but when I looked, it was splitting the close pairs very cleanly, so I went for it. This was another crowd pleaser. I was really happy with the questions I was getting. People were asking whether they were true binaries, how they orbited each other and how far apart the pairs were. And all this was on a night when I thought we'd be completely clouded out.
For Saturday night, I packed up all of the visual scopes and just did imaging. I had picked up 4.5 hours of the Iris Nebula on Wednesday, and I wanted to get 6 more hours. With the long drive back to the Seattle area on Sunday morning, I kicked off the imaging run at 10pm and went to bed. I woke up at 3:30am and decided to check on things. I noticed that the entire sky was hazy and there was lightning off in the distance to the west. There was one area of the sky that was completely opaque and it was in the area I was imaging. So I started packing up the imaging gear, while keeping an eye on the approaching lightning. Just as we were getting into the truck at 6:30am, it started raining lightly.
For the drive home, I normally go north on 97 to avoid the I-5 traffic, but on this trip, I had an errand just north of Portland. We departed west on 299 towards I-5 via 89. The line of thunderstorms stretched out the entire way, and we were in and out of them all the way through Roseburg, OR. We stopped at the new In-N-Out burger in Grants Pass. (Note to people with RVs: There is *no* RV parking there, which made it interesting. You are much better off hitting the one in Medford, which is adjacent to a mall with lots of parking.) The traffic from Eugene, all the way to Seattle was brutal and added over 3 hours to our trip. I had pretty much expected this, but needed to do that stop north of Portland. In the future, I will definitely stick to 97.