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NV at Lunar Crater

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#1 GeezerGazer

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 01:16 PM

Last week, at new moon, I was near the geographical center of Nevada, at Lunar Crater, N/E of Tonapah, a Bortle 1 zone.  I was fortunate to be with 5 OFLI observers again; precautions were taken to maintain physical distancing for COVID19 safety.  Lunar Crater is actually a volcanic caldera also known as a maar, that covers an area of 460 acres and is 430’ deep… out in the high desert of Nevada at about 7500’.  We each drove our own vehicles (about 9 hrs driving time) and parked right on the rim.  You can read more about Lunar Crater here: https://travelnevada...ckcountry-byway

 

It’s an interesting geological site for sure, and one of our members, Mike P., is a geologist by profession, so he gave us quite a bit more information.  Lunar Crater is not a campground.  It’s on BLM land with no campsites, no water, no tables, no trees, no potty, no paved road, no lights, no towns for 70 miles in any direction… just a REALLY broad expanse of unusual terrain, beautiful in its own, barren way, with inky black skies.  This place has the feel of being on a different planet and was, therefore, the training ground for the early Apollo astronauts.  They came to be trained in what to look for when they landed on the moon! 

 

When we landed on the rim of the crater late on a Thursday afternoon, all was well.  The sky was clear and black the first night, perfect for taking some NV phone photos.  But I promised myself I was going to spend time using my equipment for visual observing.  I used my TEC 140 with glass eyepieces first and later switched to my Mod 3C, on my alt/az mount with Nexus DSC’s and really enjoyed the evening.  From home I cannot see Omega Centauri, but  from the rim of the crater it was about 5° above the southern horizon and was just as stunning as was the first time I saw it from New Mexico.  Weather and observing after that was marginal or worse for the other 3 nights.  Friday, a storm front blew through… literally, with winds of 30-40 mph and clouds completely obliterating the night sky all evening.  About 01:00 Saturday morning, I looked out and saw stars, got dressed, set up my Newt, and observed until 04:30, when twilight appeared in the east; it was cold though, by 03:00, ice crystals had formed on my equipment and the vehicles.  It was during the early morning hours that I was able to take a few good images.  I’ll post two of them, but first…

 

Saturday and Sunday nights both suffered from high, thin clouds that gravely effected transparency.  BUT, we did observe anyway, and I took a few photos.  Sunday night I used my camera lenses to take a series of wide field images through the southern Milky Way.  If you have the Bracken, “Astrophotography Sky Atlas,” turn to page 66-67, and you will see the line of H-a subjects in the southern MW, from the Eagle Nebula down to the Prawn.  Below is a series of images I marked to identify “landmarks” with which most of us are familiar.  These are not great images; the effects of transparency issues made them look very grainy and somewhat blurry and washed out.  I can’t do anything about that, but you might find them interesting in spite of their deficiencies.  I took them specifically to show 1) how some of these objects fit together and 2) how much H-a nebulosity actually exists between them.  The entire area is filled with H-a, but only a small part of it is actually identified in the IC or Sharpless catalogues.  Each photo is slightly south and east of the photo before it; some of them actually overlap.  All taken with either a Nikon 300mm f:2.8 (3.6° FoV @ 11x) or a Nikon 135mm f:2 (7.4° FoV @ 5x) lens as the objective in prime focus, a 6nm H-a filter and my iPhone XR.

 

IC 4703 the Eagle Nebula & M17 the Swan (Nikon 135mm)

IMG_E7627 2.jpeg

 

M20 Triffid & M8 Lagoon Nebula (Nikon 135mm)

IMG_E7614.jpeg

 

NGC 6357 the Lobster  (Nikon 135mm)

IMG_E7615.jpeg

 

NGC 6357 Lobster & NGC 6334 Cat's Paw Nebula at the S. horizon (Nikon 300mm)

IMG_E7569.jpeg

 

Sh2-5 (about 1/2 of the image is consumed with Sh2-5; a faint but large ~2.5° H-a cloud; this image also includes the horizon as Sh2-5 was just rising; Nikon 300mm)

IMG_E7570.jpeg

 

IC 4628 the Prawn Nebula, et al. (Nikon 135mm)

IMG_E7620.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#2 GeezerGazer

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 01:39 PM

Here is a panoramic of the Lunar Crater.  Actually, our 6 vehicles are parked on the far rim of the caldera, but not visible in this compressed image. 

IMG_E7472.jpeg

 

This was our view from the top of the hill on the other side of the caldera. 

IMG_E7480.jpeg

 

Each of the following images was taken using an iPhone XR, Mod 3C in prime with 2x barlow with an ES 8" f:4 Newt (effectively working at f:8).  

M11

IMG_E7509.jpeg

 

M16... Look at this image carefully.  This is the Eagle Nebula but taken WITHOUT an H-a filter.  Although the emission lines barely appear, the Pillars of Creation clearly show as dark lanes within the image... I suspect lots of interstellar dust and other particles in the pillars blocking the emission lines.

IMG_E7515.jpeg

 

 

M16... WITH a 7nm H-a filter (but no barlow) for comparison to the above, also taken with the ES 208 but last September from a dark site in S. Utah.  Comparing the two photos, it is clear how many stars are attenuated by the narrow band filter.

IMG_5779.jpeg

 

M22

IMG_E7519.jpeg


Edited by GeezerGazer, 31 May 2020 - 01:05 AM.

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#3 Mazerski

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 04:35 PM

Great photos and writeup. M16 looks so clear and bright and it’s hard to believe these photos are possible with a hand-held device. Well done.


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#4 delgado39

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 05:44 PM

Nicely done !!!  The place looks desolate.  Thanks for the photos.


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#5 Eddgie

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 08:40 PM

A great report and wonderful images.

 

 The entire area is filled with H-a, but only a small part of it is actually identified in the IC or Sharpless catalogues.  Each photo is slightly south and east of the photo before it; some of them actually overlap.  All taken with either a Nikon 300mm f:2.8 (3.6° FoV @ 11x) or a Nikon 135mm f:2 (7.4° FoV @ 5x) lens as the objective in prime focus, a 6nm H-a filter and my iPhone XR.

 

IC 4703 the Eagle Nebula & M17 the Swan (Nikon 135mm)

attachicon.gifIMG_E7627 2.jpeg

 

M20 Triffid & M8 Lagoon Nebula (Nikon 135mm)

attachicon.gifIMG_E7614.jpeg

 

NGC 6357 the Lobster  (Nikon 135mm)

attachicon.gifIMG_E7615.jpeg

 

NGC 6357 Lobster & NGC 6334 Cat's Paw Nebula at the S. horizon (Nikon 300mm)

attachicon.gifIMG_E7569.jpeg

 

Sh2-5 (about 1/2 of the image is consumed with Sh2-5; a faint but large ~2.5° H-a cloud; this image also includes the horizon as Sh2-5 was just rising; Nikon 300mm)

attachicon.gifIMG_E7570.jpeg

 

IC 4628 the Prawn Nebula, et al. (Nikon 135mm)

attachicon.gifIMG_E7620.jpeg

I have remarked many times that the Milky Way is in fact covered with nebula and what we often look at is just the brighter areas of this almost completely pervasive nebula.

 

This is why I repeatedly urge people to make at least one trip to very dark skies. It reveals a Milky Way that is all around us, but largely unseen. 

 

I think your pictures really do a great job of revealing the large scale structure of the H-a sky.   It is quite magnificent.


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#6 GeezerGazer

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 08:40 PM

Nicely done !!!  The place looks desolate.  Thanks for the photos.

My daughter said, "Where are the trees?" ... there aren't any trees... in any direction!  It's high desert.  



#7 GeezerGazer

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 09:04 PM

I have remarked many times that the Milky Way is in fact covered with nebula and what we often look at is just the brighter areas of this almost completely pervasive nebula.

 

This is why I repeatedly urge people to make at least one trip to very dark skies. It reveals a Milky Way that is all around us, but largely unseen. 

 

I think your pictures really do a great job of revealing the large scale structure of the H-a sky.   It is quite magnificent.

So very true Ed.  NV is a remarkable tool, but is always better under dark skies, where faint H-a clouds are more easily seen and identified.  I am already planning my next dark sky trip for June 17... if weather permits.  California parks are still closed, but Nevada's park system opens tomorrow, allowing 50% occupancy.  



#8 GeezerGazer

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Posted 31 May 2020 - 01:06 AM

Great photos and writeup. M16 looks so clear and bright and it’s hard to believe these photos are possible with a hand-held device. Well done.

YES, M16 the Eagle... duly corrected.  Thank you! 



#9 jrbarnett

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Posted 31 May 2020 - 04:22 PM

Here is a panoramic of the Lunar Crater.  Actually, our 6 vehicles are parked on the far rim of the caldera, but not visible in this compressed image. 

attachicon.gifIMG_E7472.jpeg

 

This was our view from the top of the hill on the other side of the caldera. 

attachicon.gifIMG_E7480.jpeg

 

Each of the following images was taken using an iPhone XR, Mod 3C in prime with 2x barlow with an ES 8" f:4 Newt (effectively working at f:8).  

M11

attachicon.gifIMG_E7509.jpeg

 

M16... Look at this image carefully.  This is the Eagle Nebula but taken WITHOUT an H-a filter.  Although the emission lines barely appear, the Pillars of Creation clearly show as dark lanes within the image... I suspect lots of interstellar dust and other particles in the pillars blocking the emission lines.

attachicon.gifIMG_E7515.jpeg

 

 

M16... WITH a 7nm H-a filter (but no barlow) for comparison to the above, also taken with the ES 208 but last September from a dark site in S. Utah.  Comparing the two photos, it is clear how many stars are attenuated by the narrow band filter.

attachicon.gifIMG_5779.jpeg

 

M22

attachicon.gifIMG_E7519.jpeg

Challenging trip.  Very high winds by day and some of the nights, one night well below freezing where everything was covered in ice (vehicles, camp furniture, astronomy equipment, etc.), and a discrete intense light dome to the south from the airfield at Tonopah Test Range Basecamp.  It's a wonder Ray managed to snag as many beautiful images as he did.  Maybe he'll share how many "discards" went to the recycle bin.  smile.gif

 

Distantly huddled against the fierce daytime winds, muttering to one another about not being able to light camp stoves to cook, the conversation turned to food, and more precisely camping foods.  Ray waxed poetic about Casper's hotdogs (a NorCal regional favorite).  Old fashioned long, thin dogs with a natural casing that "pops" when you take a bite.

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#10 GeezerGazer

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Posted 31 May 2020 - 11:35 PM

Aahhhh... there is NOTHING like a Casper's Hot Dog! grin.gif  Those date/peanut bars? noway.gif  Argh!   I trashed perhaps 150 images... didn't count the losers; keeping about 30, mostly globs.  But what a pleasure it is to observe with the OFLI !  

 

Mike P. did enjoy using the Micro with the old, green tube in his 20" Teeter, which has a f:3.6 mirror that Mike Lockwood re-figured.  But then he saw the difference between an old tube and the newer white phosphor... that was that.  

 

Not very far from where we observed is Area 51... I wonder if green men would show up in green phosphor NVD?  lol.gif



#11 Shoshana

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Posted 10 June 2020 - 12:22 AM

Thanks for the report and awesome iPhone photos....amazing. I asked for the report in my post but then found it. Sounds like a cool place I would like to visit sometime. Awesome horizons. I and my husband are going to 9,000 feet Bortle 1. Try not to figure it out, lol.


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#12 jrbarnett

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Posted 14 June 2020 - 11:06 AM

Thanks for the report and awesome iPhone photos....amazing. I asked for the report in my post but then found it. Sounds like a cool place I would like to visit sometime. Awesome horizons. I and my husband are going to 9,000 feet Bortle 1. Try not to figure it out, lol.

Bortle 1 at 9k feet sounds splendid.  But I wouldn't go too much higher than that - at 10k to 10.5k the optical biology losses starts to counter gains in transparency.  It's a little different for every individual, but somewhere in that elevation range and increasingly above it impairment of our oxygen metabolism impairs visual acuity.  We (OFLI, the club Ray and I are in) has a much-loved site at 8400 feet that is Bortle 2-3 borderline.  It has always been "known" by astronomers and we'd generally meet other stargazers up there, but more recently it seems to have been discovered by university students for summer course field trips (UC and CS systems), which has almost destroyed it for astronomy in that season.  Big bonfires, loud shouting, high speed driving along the dirt roads of camp spreading massive amounts of dust, etc.  Kids.  :)

 

- Jim  


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#13 jcj380

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Posted 15 June 2020 - 06:34 AM

it seems to have been discovered by university students for summer course field trips (UC and CS systems), which has almost destroyed it for astronomy in that season.  Big bonfires, loud shouting, high speed driving along the dirt roads of camp spreading massive amounts of dust, etc.  Kids.  smile.gif

Where's Sasquatch when you need him?  tongue2.gif


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