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Report from Fairbanks at -30F

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#1 msl615

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 12:16 AM

Various discussions come up on CN about working in the cold and I wanted to submit this information. 

 

Cold and clear tonight in Fairbanks, and I wanted to test my systems at these temps. It is pretty brutal outside right now, but I am very pleased with two of the mounts that I have listed in my signature below. 

1. SPDX relubed with Dow Molykote 33 is working just fine at -30F. All manual, no drives, but easy to use slo-mo handles and slewing by releasing the locks.

2. SP relubed with Arctic grease (I will find manufacturer later tonight) and even easier to move and drive. This is to be expected as the tolerances of the SP are much less than the SPDX.

3. Stellarvue 102 EDT focusing has no issues...very easy with JMI two speed focuser.

4. Rigel finder is fine after I took it apart last season, relubed the brightness pot with arctic grease and wired in 2 double A batteries for power.  Before that, it would freeze solid at 0-5F.

5. Pentax 7x50 binos are useless at these temps....they are a rock and cannot be focused, the diopter eyepiece is frozen and I can't adjust the width. These will need to be taken apart and relubed. 

6. Bogen fluid head on photo tripod is no longer fluid...completely frozen solid.

 

Easy to find bright targets tonight with Rigel , but using setting circles at these temps is a real challenge to find objects not visible in Rigel. I find these easy at warmer temps, but with huge gloves, frost, and other cold challenges, they are a little tough.

 

Great views of Mars, M45, etc.  I tried to find Uranus, but just could not do it tonight with star hopping and setting circles...will try again tomorrow night (it should be about 10F warmer in 24 hr).  I found Uranus very easily last week in Southern Calif where it was warm and I could set a computer near me outside to use stellar software...can't do that at these temps.

 

Many, many layers of clothing, extreme boots and the safety / warmth of a house within 10ft.  I will go out again later when Orion is higher in the sky.

I will go out in the AM to get some views of Venus, though it is very low on the horizon. 

 

That't the report for tonight.....more tomorrow when it is slightly warmer. 

 

Mike


Edited by msl615, 12 January 2019 - 01:06 AM.

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#2 bobito

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 12:38 AM

Wow, certainly lots of challenges when using equipment in conditions far beyond design parameters.  Kudos to you for being above what you equipment can handle!

 

It is 14F with 10mph winds here tonight and I didn't even consider going out! 



#3 Jim Davis

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 12:59 AM

Temperatures like that are the reason I don't miss wintering over at Fort Wainwright.


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#4 NorthernlatAK

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 02:56 AM

I'm @ -10° F in kenai before clouds rolled in. Now that kids are asleep...
I change out my larger eyepieces like the t1 9mm you sold me, less frequently than the little plossls in this weather. Love it btw! Can't say I will go out in -30 though!! Hats off to you. Only time for any decent observing in this state I guess.
My next target was going to be the rosette with my filter. Next time I guess though. Stay warm!
Andrei
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#5 msl615

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 03:14 AM

Andrei

Great to hear from you down on the coast, and glad that the T1 9mm is working for you!  It is nice and clear here, but the cold is really tough tonight. Everything is freezing: lens caps, the slo-mo handle covers are some sort of plastic and shattered a few hours ago, etc.   Like you, I am switching out only two eyepieces tonight (27 PAN and 18.2 Delite) to make it more reasonable on my hands.

Hope the clouds clear up for you in the next few days. I am going back out in few minutes to finish up some obs near the Big Dipper, and then prep the scope to be ready for Venus in the AM.  I have so many layers on, I can barely walk around......

 

To Jim from past history in Ft. Wainwright: Hello from Fairbanks and having winter military ops I am sure is really tough. I hope that PA is much warmer for you!

 

Great fun in spite of the cold and high adventure....

 

Mike



#6 NorthernlatAK

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 03:41 AM

I noticed in your signature that you use no electronics. I have push-to on my dob but it won't work here in winter. Helps in spring and fall for elusive targets though. I'm thinking manual SC in my future. Dob gets a bit stiff moving as well in azimuth.
In the morning if you have a clear horizon you may be able to spot Jupiter on the SE horizon a few degrees up. Spotted it a few mornings ago left and down from venus towards sun glare.

#7 aneeg

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 05:43 AM

I often image down to -13F with a 10m USB cable to my indoor laptop. Staying outside in that temp I leave to my gear. Brrr!

 

Arne



#8 edwincjones

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 06:27 AM

You Alaskans are tough.

 

I was in Nome for the holidays, visiting with my daughter and her family.

I went out once to observe naked eye (temps were mild -around 0)

but just too cold for me to enjoy the night sky

 

edj



#9 Illinois

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 06:50 AM

Wow! I remember on TV that guy walking outside wear only t-shirt at 40 degree in Barrow in Alaska!~

#10 edwincjones

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 09:51 AM

Wow! I remember on TV that guy walking outside wear only t-shirt at 40 degree in Barrow in Alaska!~

he was tougher than me, and/or more foolish

 

edj



#11 Sequimite

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 10:10 AM

My sister-in-law teaches elementary school in Fairbanks. I thought the kids must be bouncing off the walls with no recess in the winter but she told me that they go outside for recess as long as it's not below twenty below zero.

 

I guess you can get used to it but it is hard for me to imagine.



#12 msl615

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 01:32 PM

Yeah, we raised both boys here and the cut-off for outdoor recess is -20F.....but they are totally bundled up into little ball shapes of outdoor gear and it is bone dry, so they don't get wet playing in the snow.  In fact, my boys were never able to even make snow-men except during the thawing season or at the first snow, because it is just too dry all winter....you can't pack the snow. 

 

Just out this AM for Venus, but it is so low in the sky and over the city of Fairbanks, and the atmosphere was mush...I could tell is was a planet, but not much more.  Took a look at Vega-Lyra-double-double but the upper atmosphere must be disturbed too....with effort, I could split the doubles, but not very clearly.

 

It is -45F in town right now, and a balmy -28F here at the house....it will warm up later today, but at the price of clouds.  Some maintenance on the mounts when it gets light (sunrise about 1040 AM) and I can see better.

 

No aurora last night though....that would have been great.

 

About walking around in a T-shirt: when "spring hits" and it gets back up to about freezing temps and we have sunshine, it is wonderful to be outside and lightly dressed...not quite T shirts, but close!

 

Mike


Edited by msl615, 12 January 2019 - 01:35 PM.


#13 NorthernlatAK

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 01:50 PM

Wow! I remember on TV that guy walking outside wear only t-shirt at 40 degree in Barrow in Alaska!~

40 is quite balmy! When it warms from subzero, 40 degrees does feel like tshirt weather. Shorts become common in that weather too.

#14 MellonLake

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 02:58 PM

Went out last night here in the Toronto area and it was only -9C (10F), nothing close to those temperatures.  It was kind of cold but the 4 layers I had on and the hand warms in my mitts and boots made it bearable.  You can dress for -9C... really hard to dress for -30C or -30F which are about the same.   

 

Unfortunately the clouds were rolling in (as usualfrown.gif) and I had to rush the set up of my 10 in. Dob.  I did not have time to let the scope cool.  The only break in the clouds was around the moon so I made the most of my small window of time viewing the moon.  However, as i noted, my scope had not cooled from the 20C in the car to the -9C outside.   I did a star test just to see what it looked like with the warm scope lol.gif, it was dancing.   The moon looked like it was sitting on hot pavement with heat waves running through the image!  Then it fully clouded over and I called it quits.  C'est la vie.  I will take any clear night at this point even a really cold one!!!   

 

Rob  


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#15 chrysalis

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 03:01 PM

Coldest I've ever observed in was northern Vermont in 1983-4 when it was -36F one night. Beautiful coal black skies and brightly sparkling stars!!



#16 NorthernlatAK

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 03:16 PM

Coldest I've ever observed in was northern Vermont in 1983-4 when it was -36F one night. Beautiful coal black skies and brightly sparkling stars!!

I lived in NY at the time and remember it got to -9°F that year. We also had a noreaster dump 30" overnight that winter...I was 9

#17 SJ2W1

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 06:28 PM

I miss it up there. Hope to make it back for good someday.



#18 jeff toma

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 11:11 PM

I lived in North Pole for 13 years. I can well imagine what you are going through.



#19 msl615

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Posted 13 January 2019 - 11:45 PM

It is great to hear everyone's adventures and tales of astronomy under colder conditions. It is good to hear from others who have lived here in Alaska, or in northern Canada and Scandinavia. I have a friend up in Barrow who has just purchased a rather large scope, and I hope to get up there to help her set it up and learn how to handle it.

 

For those of you who have not been here, the previous poster mentioned living in North Pole...that is a small community about 15 miles SE of Fairbanks, not "The north pole"....however, if your kids write letters to Santa at the North Pole in Alaska, that is where their letters will end up with an army of volunteers each year writing back. 

 

For us in Fairbanks, if is dark, then it is cold. I have forgotten (except for vacations here and there), what it is like to see stars when it is warm! One real treat for me is that sometimes I will be outside with the scopes, and the northern lights spin up....I sit down in a chair and watch the show. I have also forgotten almost everything I ever knew about the summer sky....from mid-April to mid-August, it is light and no stars, so I switch over to solar, which is also fun. 

 

Here is a time lapse photo taken last month (NOT by me) here by the University of Alaska Fairbanks photographer of noon at solstice......this is an awesome place to live. 

 

Mike

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  • Noon at solstice.jpg

Edited by msl615, 13 January 2019 - 11:46 PM.

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#20 edwincjones

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 06:48 AM

"this is an awesome place to live"

 

Just coming back from a 3 week Xmas trip to Nome,

I agree with your statement, but also a hard place to live.

 

edj



#21 Dartguy

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 09:19 AM

Don't your eyeballs freeze?!?



#22 mountain monk

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 12:05 PM

Nine bows msl615, My record was -17, and it seemed more of a stunt than real observing. Enjoy! At 77, my limit is zero.

 

Dark skies.

 

Jack



#23 Rich_W

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Posted 15 January 2019 - 09:17 PM

Really interesting report Mike, and good to hear that 102EDT is holding up well!

#24 Exnihilo

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Posted 15 January 2019 - 09:32 PM

There’s something about observing on very cold nights that make them very memorable, especially if it’s a crystal clear, icy, glittery night.
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#25 OneGear

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Posted 17 January 2019 - 02:20 AM

There's something about just being outside when it's cold.  Thanks for sharing your experience :)

 

What do you use for lubricant that works at those low temps and doesn't run all over in warmer temps? Or does is it run?  Do you need to clean and lube every year?

 

I ask because subzero F temps are normal here in winter.  And I enjoy them :)  But yeah using equipment that stiffens up is less desirable.


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