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When is it considered to be too cold to observe

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#26 mborland

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 02:52 PM

For me, it is often when my fingers get cold. Thick gloves make focus and eyepiece swaps hard, so I have to swap for thin gloves.

I've found that convertible mittens (the kind where the mitten flips off to reveal the fingers) work well. I wear thin gloves inside the mittens; even latex rubber gloves provide some protection.

 

--Michael



#27 Tyson M

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 04:56 PM

-20C is about my limit.  -30C and I am inside.  Although I might consider binoculars but usually not.

 

For me, it is often when my fingers get cold. Thick gloves make focus and eyepiece swaps hard, so I have to swap for thin gloves.

For sure this is the limiting factor for me as well for the same reason.  Second thing to freeze is my toes.



#28 Arcticpaddler

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 06:31 PM

I don't know if it's ever too cold to observe if you know how to dress for the conditions, and accept the limits of equipment in very low temps.  In the coldest temps I pretty much stick with binoculars.  Deeply cold nights often have excellent transparency but poor seeing.

 

My 8-inch SCT hates the cold, takes a long time to cool down, and gets pretty slow and stiff, so I rarely take it out if it is cooler than 20F.

 

My 4-inch refractor goes out with me in sub-zero temps to maybe -10 F (I keep eyepieces under a heat blanket)

 

It sometimes gets colder than -40F here, but those temps tend to be closer to dawn, and I'll be hanging out by the woodstove.


Edited by Arcticpaddler, 24 January 2021 - 06:32 PM.

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#29 psychwolf

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 07:49 PM

I've found that convertible mittens (the kind where the mitten flips off to reveal the fingers) work well. I wear thin gloves inside the mittens; even latex rubber gloves provide some protection.

 

--Michael

Yes, this. The best ones I got were this year flip back on the thumb as well so you can handle equipment or screens, then go back to being warm. Originally marketed as ice fishing mittens, which people around me do all the time. I use them for star watching and interacting with cold metal. Bonus is you can stick usb hand warmers in the cuffs or when flipped down. Order up on size if you order from the US - Palmyth Ice Fishing Gloves.


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#30 MEE

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 09:42 PM

Is there a point at which the temperature or wind chill is so low, that equipment could be damaged?

#31 Rickycardo

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 09:48 PM

Is there a point at which the temperature or wind chill is so low, that equipment could be damaged?

Zero Kelvin?
 


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#32 havasman

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 10:11 PM

For me long winter nights are the best and even better of it's too cold for the light pollution, a.k.a. astrophotographers, to be out at the dark site. My experience is that good gear beats the cold every time. And our gear (at least my Dobs, binoculars and refractors) doesn't care at all.

Some folks on the forums observe year 'round in Canada and Alaska if the sun sets. Others in S Texas stay indoors if it's < +40F. Both are correct. It's truly your choice.


Edited by havasman, 24 January 2021 - 10:13 PM.

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#33 VNA

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 10:12 PM

The cold is one thing, but standing still is a real chalenge, and then the eye ball gets stuck on the ey piece!

Reminds me of the kid who gets his tongue stuck on the goal post to impress a girl!


Edited by VNA, 24 January 2021 - 10:15 PM.


#34 stevenwav

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 10:42 PM

I am in the Boston area as is the OP and I tried going out tonight to get first light in my “new to me” Q7. It was in the low twenties with a windchill bringing the feeling of 8 degrees f. Not intolerable but, I was using fingerless gloves and the ota got so cold my fingers turned blue in a matter of twenty minutes from slewing the scope (just an alt/ax mount so manual). If the “standing still in the chill” doesn’t get ya, the cold metal will. I am not wearing gloves and fumbling with expensive eyepieces and certainly not mounting and dismounting my scopes while wearing any gloves. Heck, I take my jacket as well so my zipper doesn’t scratch the ota as I mount and dismount the scope!   This cold weather observing is getting tougher and tougher and I am doing it less every year. I was able to do it 10 years ago, but not so much any more. As for the equipment,  no problems there as long as you don’t bring the scope out from a warm house into the freezing cold and vice-versa. 



#35 *skyguy*

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 10:49 PM

When the warm, moist air coming out of my nose turns to icicles on my mustache!


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#36 Masonry00

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 11:03 PM

My viewing comfort does not correspond very well with the thermometer.

 

Here in the Pacific Northwest I can often view longer and more comfortably at a dry 20F than I can at 36F when the air has a certain kind of humidity in it (and I am dressed the same way). I don't think all 99% humid air is the same! Some of it will make your hands, nose and exposed ears go painfully numb in very short order, even with only a barely perceptible breeze of 1 or 2 mph. Often, a similarly calm, but dry, 20F is comfortable for hours in surprisingly light clothing.

 

So it's all about what you can tolerate and still enjoy yourself. Sometimes the cold makes the experience better. It can step up your metabolism in a similar manner to exercise. Cold weather viewing stimulates the appetite and can help you lose weight because your metabolism will remain somewhat stimulated for hours afterward.


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#37 mountain monk

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Posted 24 January 2021 - 11:04 PM

For me it has varied with age. Years ago I used to observe below zero. My record was -17, but that was a stunt. Now when it gets below 10F I call it a night. I have the best cold weather as you could want (I was a mountaineer all my life), but now it is not a matter of gear. I lack the "push" I had when I was younger. 

 

Dark skies.

 

Jack



#38 Allan Wade

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 05:15 AM

Sitting here in balmy Oz, I get the shivers just thinking about some of the temperatures you guys up north observe in. Fortunately my dark site hardly ever gets below about -5C, which is a good thing because that’s cold enough for me.


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#39 Tony Flanders

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 08:15 AM

I like observing and I have a lot of good equipment, but it's really tough to go out in the bitter cold. Do many people here go out and observe in the dead of winter?  Boston area is not the greatest place for this hobby. Any suggestions on how to observe in the cold other than dress warm? I'm not a young guy anymore and it will probably become more difficult in years to come. Also,  I would think that it's not great for the optics as well. I'm  wondering what rapid temperature does to aluminized mirrors with the mis match in CTE between the aluminum coating and the fused silica glass.   

It never gets cold in Boston! It used to go below 0F fairly regularly, but it's been a long time since that was true. And 0F hardly counts as cold unless there's a really strong wind.

 

Boston is the semi-tropical face of New England, fronting as it does on the ocean. Spend a winter in northern New England, or even far-western Massachusetts, and Boston will never seem cold again.

 

Optics couldn't care less about temperature -- at least not at any temperature that humans can survive for more than a few minutes. Purely mechanical components, like Crayford focusers and Dob bearings, likewise. Mechanical components with lubricants, including most rack-and-pinion focusers, can stiffen up in cold weather, in which case the answer is to re-pack them with lithium grease.

 

Electronics can indeed get balky at cold temperatures, especially displays. And batteries can get flaky indeed. In general, lithium batteries are best. But displays may require some external heat source to operate well at 0F.

 

The best answer is to dress warmly -- much, much more warmly than you are used to dressing. Yesterday morning I went out for an hour when the temp was 6F, and it was quite windy. Wearing Sorel boots, a ski bib, and an expedition-weight parka, I was barely aware that it was cold at all, except for my hands.

 

The only real problems are your hands and face. You can't see if your face is covered, and there's a limit to how much insulation you can place on your hands and still manipulate anything. My answer for that is to use chemical handwarmers; they're miraculous.


Edited by Tony Flanders, 25 January 2021 - 08:23 AM.

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#40 clearwaterdave

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 08:48 AM

For me it's too cold when my nose and eyes start running.,usually between 8-14°f.,I am close to a warm room so breaks inside help to keep from freezing.,Cold windy nights I can observe from my recliner.,



#41 DSOGabe

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 10:30 AM

I also agree that the wind is the determining factor. I'm in the desert southwest so it does not really get too cold. I've been out there at temps around 40F and its tolerable with no or light breezes; I'll go in and out of the sunroom every 15 or so minutes to warm up a bit. But, if the winds start to pick up, that wind chill completely changes the entire situation. I'll give up after about an hour and go sit in a tub of hot water to thaw out. 


Edited by DSOGabe, 25 January 2021 - 10:31 AM.


#42 sg6

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 12:09 PM

I have found it difficult to make the effort to go out on my own. The assorted lockdowns have also made a drive out for 10-15 miles difficult to where I would otherwise have gone.

 

Age as in the original post doesn't help.

 

Find if I do anything it needs to be an easy setup. Taking 30-40 minutes is not a viable option as a large proportion of the time is taken up just getting bits out then the same bits back in.

 

Two or more going together helps, but presently that is not allowed here. Equally the potential other are similar age and gooing outside in the cold doesn't appeal to any of us.

 

The Outreach helped. I could just go and in effect do "Outreach" or I could haul a scope along and spend time after the main event eith observing or with visitors observing and talking. The social side becomes greater.

 

Did find the Herschel Wedge and a scope useful, not too cold in daylight looking at the sun and the 2 rather small spots on it. But it was something. A small refractor and the Herschel Wedge are a good option for an hours solar viewing.

 

Presently my home location makes observing difficult (impossible) and the lockdown means I cannot really go elsewhere, and finally the temperature is the other factor. Will say on the lockdown that it seems not strictly enforced. They are reasonable here unless you organise a party or something. Comes down to "Don't be stupid".

 

If the question related to "What temperature" well it seems that 1C or 2C is getting to be it. But as said it is me on my own and I suspect the "lone observer" aspect is the greater deterrant.



#43 oldmanrick

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 02:14 PM

I like observing and I have a lot of good equipment, but it's really tough to go out in the bitter cold. Do many people here go out and observe in the dead of winter?  Boston area is not the greatest place for this hobby. Any suggestions on how to observe in the cold other than dress warm? I'm not a young guy anymore and it will probably become more difficult in years to come. Also,  I would think that it's not great for the optics as well. I'm  wondering what rapid temperature does to aluminized mirrors with the mis match in CTE between the aluminum coating and the fused silica glass.   

I will go out in almost any temperature for a quick look at a special target.  For ordinary random observing I limit it to temps above freezing and with no wind.  Relative humidity needs to be low too, for if not, problems with eyepiece fogging become too much of a hassle.

 

As the years progress the tolerable temperature rises!

 

Rick



#44 Arcticpaddler

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 02:27 PM

Optics couldn't care less about temperature -- at least not at any temperature that humans can survive for more than a few minutes. Purely mechanical components, like Crayford focusers and Dob bearings, likewise. Mechanical components with lubricants, including most rack-and-pinion focusers, can stiffen up in cold weather, in which case the answer is to re-pack them with lithium grease.

True.  But the long cool-down times before observing, and my distaste for disassembling my SCT to replace the grease is a deterrent to using the larger scope in low temps.

 

Up here if you don't embrace the cold and learn how to live with it, you won't be observing for 5-6 months of the year.



#45 sevenofnine

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 08:11 PM

When your shoes freeze to the deck sct.png ohmy.gif



#46 Katharine

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 09:30 PM

Sitting here in balmy Oz, I get the shivers just thinking about some of the temperatures you guys up north observe in. Fortunately my dark site hardly ever gets below about -5C, which is a good thing because that’s cold enough for me.

OTOH, we're cringing thinking about some of your summer temperatures.  :)  I would feel sweaty in Bangkok at 37C, then my coworker in Canberra would say it was 45C there... (though I don't know what you get for humidity, and we did have times when our "real feel" got up there...)



#47 grif 678

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 10:13 PM

When I step outside of the warm house, and then the cold hits me, then I go back in and try to decide if what I want to look at is something rare or something I can see when it gets warmer. I guess if there was something like a rare conjunction, an eclipse, or something like that, I could stand the cold maybe for a short period. If it is just to take a peek of Saturn or Jupiter, I would just waiter until a warmer night. But the older I get, the cut off temperature will get higher, not lower.



#48 Allan Wade

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 03:44 AM

OTOH, we're cringing thinking about some of your summer temperatures.  smile.gif  I would feel sweaty in Bangkok at 37C, then my coworker in Canberra would say it was 45C there... (though I don't know what you get for humidity, and we did have times when our "real feel" got up there...)

I know that Bangkok heat well. That humidity is a killer. 
 

From an observing point of view, I think most people are more concerned with cold than heat. These threads come up all the time, but I can’t remember one asking when is it too hot to observe.



#49 therealdmt

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 03:48 AM

Some of you guys are tough.

 

I can handle the beginning of a session around freezing; it’s the end of the session that bothers me. In particular, trying to pack things up with cold hands is a biotch. My toes tell me when it’s high time to begin that process.

 

That said, I’ll freely admit that I haven’t explored any relatively extreme measures to deal with the cold - just a shirt, sweatshirt and down-filled winter jacket, knit cap, jeans over meggings, socks ‘n sneakers. Haven’t even gotten into fingerless gloves as it’s my fingers that get the worst of it, but I like the idea of those flip-top mittens mentioned above. Used a chemical handwarmer once earlier this year, but I’m not big on the disposable/waste aspect; I might look into a reusable handwarmer. Anyway, I’m on the northern edge of the [northern hemisphere] subtropics, so milder nights get mixed in with the colder ones and winter isn’t too long (it does get cold though - had a couple of snows already this year, though the snow pretty much melts and/or subliminales away after a day)



#50 Moxized

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 04:39 AM

Well, it is snowing here now, but I've still been going out when the skies open for looking at the moon. Never had to deal with extreme cold. I keep cozy with my wool socks, wool base layers, wool gloves, then lined pants and comfy jacket, and a wool buff around my neck and face, and always piping hot coffee in my thermos. 

 

One of these days when I own a larger telescope I'm sure I'll overstay my night in the cold.

 

 

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