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Winter is PRIME observing season

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#1 erick86

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 10:38 AM

Interested to hear from others on this one:

 

For me, the winter is my peak observing season.  I live fairly far north, with astronomical dusk at 6:30pm, and astronomical dawn at 6:30am.  12 hours of glorious galaxy- and nebula-hunting darkness!  What more could a person ask for (other than clear skies)?  

 

The other side of the coin is that it's cold here.  Often -20C or thereabouts.  But you just gotta dress for battle.  Do whatever it takes.  

 

I can often get a session of several hours in a morning before work, being able to observe until 6:30am without any interference of sunrise.  And likewise in the evening, I can easily get in a lengthy multi-hour session and comfortably get to bed before midnight.  This means I'm not just hoping for a clear weather window on a weekend during a new moon, but basically every single evening and morning all throughout the week.  There is bound to be at least a few hours of clear sky sometime during the week where I can get out and see something.  

 

Do you love or hate observing in winter?

 

For example, in the past 5 years, I usually get zero observing days in from May-August.  That is when I take astronomy hiatus.  1:00am-2:00am is a no-go zone for me no matter what time of year it is.  I'm not hard-core enough.  Also, the perpetual midnight twilight in summer doesn't provide much motivation to stay up all night when the sky isn't even going to fully reach true darkness. 

 

And, the bugs.  shocked.gif

 

 

Eric 

 

 


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#2 petert913

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 10:42 AM

I don't mind the cold (too much) but the cloudiness and rain in the Pacific Northwest is a show stopper for most of the season.


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#3 zakry3323

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 11:23 AM

Though it tends to be the least humid, and I love the abundance of dark hours, Winter tends to be overcast most of the time around here with only occasional breaks in the weather. Spring is always wet. Summer tends to have the clearest skies, sometimes I even get a few nights in a row- but they always tend to be late nights due to the sun hanging around. I take what I can get whenever I can get it, and like you said, dress appropriately.  


Edited by zakry3323, 12 January 2021 - 11:24 AM.

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#4 aa6ww

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 11:25 AM

For me, winter is prime time for grab and go scopes, mounts and solar observing. I wont get all hyped up about Astronomy 2021 till maybe early March. Then its all about the clear skies and back yard astronomy parties, even if its a party of one. I like the heat, but I cant stand the cold weather any more. 

 

...Ralph


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#5 Stefano Delmonte

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 11:25 AM

I love observing every season of the year, but I must agree with you that winter usually bring a darker and more clean sky even here at 40º N or in my parent's home at 45ºN.

 

Said so, I prefer winter to summer cause Moon climb higher in the sky and this mean less turbolence and more mag to pushsmile.gif

 

My respect to yours -20º Eric, my best record is -10º and I though was my limit, maybe is only a matter of better dress but I prefer +5º or solol.gif

 

ste


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#6 AndrewM1

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 11:42 AM

I'm on the exact same page, Eric.  First, the objects themselves in my mind are the best of the year.  I could blast out a long list, but some of my obvious must-sees include M42, M35, NGC 2244, M37, NGC 2264, and M41.

 

Second, the experience itself is so different -- everything is quieter and I seem to be able to absorb things better.  

 

As for the cold, I have never had a session where I regretted going out due to the temps.  Every time, regardless of the cold, is worth it.  I guess I've realized that at 56 years old, the number of nights left to observe will come to an end sooner than I'd like, and I'll be darned if I'm going to miss any of them.


Edited by AndrewM1, 12 January 2021 - 01:45 PM.

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#7 rathbaster

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 12:34 PM

When I was younger yes, the Winter was a good time to observe.

As I have aged (and developed medical conditions) I find my body less tolerant to extreme cold. 

Spring and Fall are my more favored seasons now.


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#8 LDW47

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 12:56 PM

Interested to hear from others on this one:

 

For me, the winter is my peak observing season.  I live fairly far north, with astronomical dusk at 6:30pm, and astronomical dawn at 6:30am.  12 hours of glorious galaxy- and nebula-hunting darkness!  What more could a person ask for (other than clear skies)?  

 

The other side of the coin is that it's cold here.  Often -20C or thereabouts.  But you just gotta dress for battle.  Do whatever it takes.  

 

I can often get a session of several hours in a morning before work, being able to observe until 6:30am without any interference of sunrise.  And likewise in the evening, I can easily get in a lengthy multi-hour session and comfortably get to bed before midnight.  This means I'm not just hoping for a clear weather window on a weekend during a new moon, but basically every single evening and morning all throughout the week.  There is bound to be at least a few hours of clear sky sometime during the week where I can get out and see something.  

 

Do you love or hate observing in winter?

 

For example, in the past 5 years, I usually get zero observing days in from May-August.  That is when I take astronomy hiatus.  1:00am-2:00am is a no-go zone for me no matter what time of year it is.  I'm not hard-core enough.  Also, the perpetual midnight twilight in summer doesn't provide much motivation to stay up all night when the sky isn't even going to fully reach true darkness. 

 

And, the bugs.  shocked.gif

 

 

Eric 

The other clear nite I went out with my gng, skize were shown as average, the ice crystals in the air was heavier than I thought, the scopes can get some of that settling, the lens / ep can get a bit clouded from the air or your breath ! How do you counteract that each and every clear, cold nite so that you can enjoy long viewing sessions of several hours and win the ‘battle’ ? I’m 73, conditions have never changed last I looked, lol !  PS: And the bugs only last from the 3rd week of May till the first week of July and after that a few nite mosquitos are tolerable for the tough northerners. In that bad period a good bug jacket will do the trick, same as trout fishing, lol !



#9 alphatripleplus

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 01:28 PM

I moved from NJ to GA over a year ago, and enjoy my winter observing and EAA sessions much more down here. The much milder winter temps, and the absence of dealing with snow and ice when getting my scope out have had a huge positive impact.



#10 RockyMtnRR

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 01:33 PM

I was really excited for winter but the cold is having more of a damping effect on my fun than I expected, exacerbated by some circulation in hands problems (getting older sucks).  I've ordered some insulated overalls that'll hang next to my observing coat.  I'm hoping the easy pullover and being warm make it more desirable again. :/


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#11 REC

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 01:50 PM

Love the winter sky! Full of bright stars and constellations! Much to see everywhere you look and very little humidity. Generally like 30* F or above.



#12 joelcindyclark

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 02:24 PM

The winter sky is by far, my favorite time of year. I could spend a month's worth of night observing Orion alone.  I'm far enough north that I can observe right after work as well...no late nights/lack of sleep. Those crisp, super-dark clear nights are second-to-none. The best Jupiter moon shadow transit I have ever seen was on New Year's Eve, several years ago. Now that Jupiter is in the summer sky, it doesn't seem nearly as incredible to watch.

 

But I live in rainy Western Washington - so the ability to observe is few and far between. I haven't had one decent evening over the past two months, unless you count the one clear night we had with a nearly-full moon.

 

I do love summer though...the areas around Sagittarius are incredible and it's also been prime for planetary viewing over the past few years. However, I'll still chose winter first.

Really, the only time I rarely observe is the springtime...and that's mostly due to the rainy weather, the fact that Orion is setting towards the light-polluted west and the Milky Way core is too far east to see much where I live.


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#13 GeneT

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 07:35 PM

I enjoy viewing in the winter. However, colder than 40F I am inside. (I live in San Antonio.)


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#14 NathanL

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 07:44 PM

Humidity goes down here a lot in this part of Texas, but oddly enough we get a fair amount of rain right at the freezing mark in the winter which kind of kills it.


Edited by NathanL, 12 January 2021 - 07:45 PM.


#15 physik

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Posted 12 January 2021 - 11:21 PM

Winter has always been my favorite time to observe, but like others have already said, there's a lot of overcast. But when the skies are clear...they're clear unlike any other time of the year.



#16 REC

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Posted 13 January 2021 - 01:29 PM

Winter is also a great time to use binoculars along with a scope!



#17 REC

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Posted 13 January 2021 - 01:31 PM

The winter sky is by far, my favorite time of year. I could spend a month's worth of night observing Orion alone.  I'm far enough north that I can observe right after work as well...no late nights/lack of sleep. Those crisp, super-dark clear nights are second-to-none. The best Jupiter moon shadow transit I have ever seen was on New Year's Eve, several years ago. Now that Jupiter is in the summer sky, it doesn't seem nearly as incredible to watch.

 

But I live in rainy Western Washington - so the ability to observe is few and far between. I haven't had one decent evening over the past two months, unless you count the one clear night we had with a nearly-full moon.

 

I do love summer though...the areas around Sagittarius are incredible and it's also been prime for planetary viewing over the past few years. However, I'll still chose winter first.

Really, the only time I rarely observe is the springtime...and that's mostly due to the rainy weather, the fact that Orion is setting towards the light-polluted west and the Milky Way core is too far east to see much where I live.

Did you ever notice the "S" shape of stars that run through Orions belt stars? Very pretty!


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#18 Sarkikos

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Posted 13 January 2021 - 02:32 PM

I enjoy viewing in the winter. However, colder than 40F I am inside. (I live in San Antonio.)

40F is not winter! That's late fall or early spring.

 

:grin:

Mike


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#19 Sarkikos

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Posted 13 January 2021 - 02:33 PM

I hate the cold.  But I love observing.  So winter is a source of conflict for me.  On many sub-freezing nights, I'm relieved if the skies are cloudy.

 

Mike


Edited by Sarkikos, 13 January 2021 - 02:34 PM.

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#20 Sarkikos

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Posted 13 January 2021 - 02:33 PM

Winter is also a great time to use binoculars along with a scope!

Or instead of a scope!

 

Mike



#21 Sarkikos

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Posted 13 January 2021 - 02:35 PM

Did you ever notice the "S" shape of stars that run through Orions belt stars? Very pretty!

Collinder 70.

 

Mike



#22 Sarkikos

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Posted 13 January 2021 - 02:38 PM

I was really excited for winter but the cold is having more of a damping effect on my fun than I expected, exacerbated by some circulation in hands problems (getting older sucks).  I've ordered some insulated overalls that'll hang next to my observing coat.  I'm hoping the easy pullover and being warm make it more desirable again. :/

You might have Raynaud's Syndrome.  I have it.  If you have it, your hands get cold fast and stay cold.  The fingers - and even the entire hand - turns blue.  When you come back inside the hands turn red as a lobster.  And hurt like ....!

 

No wonder I hate winter.

 

Mike


Edited by Sarkikos, 13 January 2021 - 02:39 PM.


#23 havasman

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Posted 13 January 2021 - 03:13 PM

I too just love the long winter sessions under cleaner skies and the excellent objects that are available - the best galaxies and all the showpieces. Temps aren't that low here. Lowest end of session reading was +15F. But it's not a dry cold and it'll chill your bones. Luckily I can still stand it. This year I've tried to decrease the mass and volume of my cold weather gear, moving from heavy thick wool Danish fisherman's sweaters toward more down and tech layers. No verdict yet. It's going to be 60 degrees today... But I expect +18F at tomorrow night's dark site session.



#24 erick86

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Posted 13 January 2021 - 03:56 PM

Nalgene water bottles filled with boiling water are the best heaters in the cold. You can put em in your coat, warm your hands etc.

In the extreme cold I bring two heavy winter coats. Wear one, and the second one is wrapped up with the boiled bottles of water inside. This serves two purposes: keeping the bottles from getting cold, and preheating the jacket. Then you can switch coats every 20 minutes or so, and it’s like putting on a coat that just came out of a hot dryer. The bottles then begin to preheat the other coat for the next swap.

Camping stove, water, and Nalgene bottles!!! That’s all you need to take your observing sessions down at least another 30-40 degrees colder than your current limit!
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#25 McGarnicle

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Posted 13 January 2021 - 06:20 PM

I moved from NJ to GA over a year ago, and enjoy my winter observing and EAA sessions much more down here. The much milder winter temps, and the absence of dealing with snow and ice when getting my scope out have had a huge positive impact.

I’m originally from CT and have lived in GA since ‘93. I HATE cold weather and even these winters are annoying to me. Luckily it’s short lived, with March usually starting to warm up nicely, and even some lucky spots in late Feb.

 

Having just taken up this hobby, it just dawned on me that last light in late June is around 9:45PM and I’m usually snoring by 11. Guess I better get while the gettin’s good. 


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