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Planning a Trip to Big Bend - Advice Sought

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#26 MikeRatcliff

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Posted 20 July 2021 - 04:19 PM

Regarding the MW "core".  Until last year I never had a telescope true field of view larger than about 1.4 degrees. Now I have an 85mm refractor going to 4.5 degrees.

 

This was a revelation when viewing the "core" Sagittarius area in dark skies!! (for me about 21.8 SQM). So many star clouds / dust? clouds besides the usual dark and bright nebula. I was seeing more structure in these areas than I had seen before. To me this is better than many other Milky Way sections (northern hemisphere). I would say the areas roughly bounded by M6/M7 on the west, M22 on the east, and M16 on the north is a new favorite. With a brighter sky of SQM of 21.3, the area was much less impressive. 

 

Big Bend being farther south and being so dark will show this core area even better.  

 

Mike



#27 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 11:11 AM

Yeah I'm aware of the core viewing season but my schedule just isn't free enough to do it this year.  So we're shooting for fall/winter.  I picked December because according to stellarium the milky way will be directly overhead at zenith spanning the entire sky at midnight.  I think that sounds pretty fantastic.


Edited by matt_astro_tx, 21 July 2021 - 11:11 AM.

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#28 Phillip Creed

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 01:28 PM

Crazy thing is, the *winter* milky way from Big Bend is easily as vivid as the *summer* milky way is from most "dark sky" sites.

If you go in Nov/Dec, you will plenty of large galaxies that you can observe/image in the early evening hours with the AT60.  NGC 55, NGC 253, NGC 300 and NGC 1365 are good targets from there with the AT60.  Later on through the night, of course, are plenty of widefield objects to feast the AT60 on.

Visually, you might be able to see the Helix Nebula naked-eye from there.  Your 8" Newtonian should be enough firepower to see the Horsehead Nebula without filters.

Yes; it's THAT dark.

Clear Skies,

Phil


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#29 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 05:02 PM

M42 is why I got into imaging in the first place last December and my plan was to image it from Big Bend this year as a "full circle" kind of thing.  That being said, M42 is so bright I would have little problem imaging it from my Bortle 6 backyard, so it may not be worth the valuable time while I am there.  I don't really know.

 

I'll definitely aim for imaging the horsehead as well.

 

Of all the visible targets in December, what would you rank as the top 3-5 to image with my AT60 from Big Bend?



#30 SkyRanger

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 06:05 PM

Before retirement I was the "Sky Ranger" at Natural Bridges National Monument.  When the NPS Dark Sky program first started, Bridges was the darkest sky the NPS had measured.  About 8-10 years ago I was visiting with the Dark Sky ranger on a follow up visit to Natural Bridges. He told me then that Big Bend had edged out Bridges as one of the darkest spots in the NPS.  Now that I am retired I no longer have access to the exact figures that we discussed then, and I no longer remember them. You won't be disappointed with the skies at Big Bend.  Sadly, it has been years since I have been there.

 

[By the way, in SE Utah Bridges, Canyonlands, Howenweep, and to a lesser degree Arches all have some great dark sky viewing. BTW, Bridges has a 16" Starmaster for public programs. I wrote the grant for it, and it is stunning from such a dark sky!]

 

Gordon G

Retired "Sky Ranger"


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#31 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 07:33 AM

Before retirement I was the "Sky Ranger" at Natural Bridges National Monument.  When the NPS Dark Sky program first started, Bridges was the darkest sky the NPS had measured.  About 8-10 years ago I was visiting with the Dark Sky ranger on a follow up visit to Natural Bridges. He told me then that Big Bend had edged out Bridges as one of the darkest spots in the NPS.  Now that I am retired I no longer have access to the exact figures that we discussed then, and I no longer remember them. You won't be disappointed with the skies at Big Bend.  Sadly, it has been years since I have been there.

 

[By the way, in SE Utah Bridges, Canyonlands, Howenweep, and to a lesser degree Arches all have some great dark sky viewing. BTW, Bridges has a 16" Starmaster for public programs. I wrote the grant for it, and it is stunning from such a dark sky!]

 

Gordon G

Retired "Sky Ranger"

Thanks for the encouragement! 



#32 Phillip Creed

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 08:27 AM

M42 is why I got into imaging in the first place last December and my plan was to image it from Big Bend this year as a "full circle" kind of thing.  That being said, M42 is so bright I would have little problem imaging it from my Bortle 6 backyard, so it may not be worth the valuable time while I am there.  I don't really know.

 

I'll definitely aim for imaging the horsehead as well.

 

Of all the visible targets in December, what would you rank as the top 3-5 to image with my AT60 from Big Bend?

Well, M42 would certainly be among the top targets.  While you CAN image M42 from a Bortle Class 6 sky, you'll need less--substantially less--imaging time from a Bortle 1 sky to get the same quality of data.

If you're using a 183MC with the AT60+0.8X combo, the sensor size (8.8mm x 13.2mm) yields roughly 1.7° x 2.6°.  If you use a crop-sensor DSLR, roughly 3.0° x 4.5°.  So a good imaging target will depend on the camera.

That being said, I'd strongly recommend shooting NGC 253 from there.  It's a long galaxy at 7' x 28' and will show up nicely if you're using the ASI183.

The Rosette Nebula and California Nebulas will be well-placed as the night goes on.  The Monkey Head Nebula (NGC 2175), the Jellyfish Nebula (IC 443), and either the Heart (IC 1805) or Soul Nebula (IC 1848) in Cassiopeia will be prime targets with the AT60.  A DSLR might get both in the same FOV.  IC 405 (Flaming Star Nebula) would be worth a go.  The Seagull Nebula would be worthwhile after midnight in December.  The Witch's Head Nebula would work best with a DSLR, but it might be too big for the 183.  Towards dawn, the Medusa Nebula (Abell 21) would be framed nicely with the 183, but a tad small for a DSLR.

The Horsehead Nebula will look awesome in the AT60, regardless of sensor.

Clear Skies,

Phil



 



#33 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 09:08 AM

Thanks Phil.  Here's a first stab at a target list.

 

M42

NGC 2244 Rosette Nebula

M31 Andromeda Galaxy

IC 1805 Heart Nebula

IC 1848 Soul Nebula

 

I think 5 targets over two nights is probably plenty.  I may only get to two of them, and M42 & the Rosette are definitely my top contenders.

 

I need to start researching the ideal combination of exposure lengths for M42 as I know it's a challenging target...

 

Another question: If I purchase a deep cycle wheelchair battery, which will last about 6 hours powering my rig, where will I go to recharge it?



#34 havasman

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 09:21 AM

Thanks Phil!  I've scouted out the spot on street view.  Looks great.  I imagine we'll pull in there for some stealth car camping and astro for at least one evening.

 

I then looked up moon phases and milky way position at local midnight and think I've narrowed down our opportunities to November or December for ideal MW viewing.  We'll have to bring warm clothes and sleeping bags!

 

Did anyone bother you while you were there overnight?

You want to abide by the park rules regarding camping sites. And abiding by the park rules in general will go a long way toward ensuring a pleasant and productive stay. The parks are at full capacity these days and there's little patience with folks going out of bounds. The rules in place very certainly allow for excellent observing and are designed to preserve and protect the park while maximizing safe use so there's little to gain by planning to circumvent them.

 

That person bothering you if you're non-compliant may likely be a Park Ranger.


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#35 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 09:26 AM

Completely agree.  However even if I got a campsite, I wouldn't plan to image from it.  I would still go to an overlook to image from.  Which is why I asked the question about - really - whether the rangers care if you're parked at an overlook and imaging for the entire night.


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#36 Dan Crowson

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 12:48 PM

M42
NGC 2244 Rosette Nebula
M31 Andromeda Galaxy
IC 1805 Heart Nebula
IC 1848 Soul Nebula

These are common and bright targets. Having good, dark skies, I'd second NGC 253 (Sculptor will be in a good position later in the night), NGC 7293 the Helix (good at the start of the night) and possibly even NGC 1097 in Fornax. 
 
Dan



#37 Phillip Creed

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 02:54 PM

One thing you might want to consider--if you can swing it--is running two imaging rigs from Big Bend.

Here's why I say this.  I have a 135mm Samyang f/2 lens on my modded Nikon D5300 used with the Star Adventurer.  It is my widefield setup and can really go deep--DEEP--on big targets.  Modded D5300's and D5500's are pretty cheap.  The 135mm Samyang is ~$500 retail / $400 used, comparable to the modded D5300/D5500.

I'd *seriously* consider getting a setup like this for Big Bend.

And f/2 from a sky THAT dark and a 6.6° x 9.9° frame means you can have a LOT of fun.  Even if you only devote an hour per target, that hour under a Bortle 1 sky goes a LOT further than several hours from light-polluted skies.  You can still use the AT60 and the other camera for appropriate targets all while racking up image after image with the 135.  Heart+Soul Nebula *and* the Double Cluster all in one-go.  Horsie and M42 in one gulp.  M31 with room to spare.  Widefield shot of the Pleiades and a LOT of dust.  The entire Witch's Head nebula.  Monkey Head (NGC 2175) and Jellyfish Nebula (IC 443) in the same frame.  Elephant Trunk Nebula (IC 1396).

Did I forget to mention it can shoot f/2.0?

Clear Skies,

Phil



#38 SkyRanger

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 03:14 PM

Thanks for the encouragement! 

And there are some great hikes if you have the time.  I always loved the Lost Mine Trail which is in the Chisos Basin.

 

GG


Edited by SkyRanger, 22 July 2021 - 03:14 PM.


#39 Szumi

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Posted 23 July 2021 - 03:43 PM

In 1996 or so, I went on a bicycle tour from Pecos, Big bend, Ruidoisa, Marfa and back.  We tent camped one night in the park.  The park officials didn't care where we put up our tent but we were on bicycles.

 

It is pretty dark away from any city in that area.  I'd like to go back with a couple mounts and scopes when I retire. 

 

April was hot and windy, we should have left a month sooner.

 

I think you will have  a great time.



#40 Taoist8750

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Posted 26 July 2021 - 03:16 PM

Be sure to swing through Marfa and check out the Marfa lights.  Almost every night they are there.


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#41 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 06:44 AM

Well my buddy shot down my plan to visit the park in December.  Too cold for his tastes and I can respect that.  So looking like an early Spring trip now, perhaps February-May timeframe.



#42 RiderRoy

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 02:03 PM

Be sure to swing through Marfa and check out the Marfa lights.  Almost every night they are there.

LIES! I've stood at that site well past sunset like an idiot several times and seen nothing.. nothing. lol.gif tongue2.gif

One night my wife and I were out there till midnight and had several "Wait! What's that? oh.. car".. moments. lol.gif cool.gif


Edited by RiderRoy, 27 July 2021 - 02:04 PM.


#43 brlasy1

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 02:05 PM

Well my buddy shot down my plan to visit the park in December.  Too cold for his tastes and I can respect that.  So looking like an early Spring trip now, perhaps February-May timeframe.

There's always Copper Breaks State Park, which is much closer to you.  I think it's a Bortle 2.  It'll still be cold in December, though.



#44 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 02:11 PM

There's always Copper Breaks State Park, which is much closer to you.  I think it's a Bortle 2.  It'll still be cold in December, though.

Thanks!  I'll check it out...


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#45 3 i Guy

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 03:23 PM

LIES! I've stood at that site well past sunset like an idiot several times and seen nothing.. nothing. lol.gif tongue2.gif

One night my wife and I were out there till midnight and had several "Wait! What's that? oh.. car".. moments. lol.gif cool.gif

I must be lucky. The 2 times I’ve been there, the lights put on quite a show. They merge, divide, change colors, and dart around. I have no idea what they are, but they are NOT car headlights. I took this shot in July ‘18, the Chinati Mountains are in the background.

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Edited by 3 i Guy, 27 July 2021 - 03:25 PM.

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#46 havasman

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 04:00 PM

We'd always showed up to view the lights with a few friends and a couple of cases of wine in tow. When the tourist busses and younger local yokels would show up we'd get a fair party going pretty quickly and end up with more pals than we started with. The lights were always there, even before we'd get to the 2nd case.  lol.gif lol.gif lol.gif 

 

Nowadays that's complicated but it'll be nice to get back to being sociable one of these days.

 

Copper Breaks is great. It's been an IDA International Dark Sky Park for a while and they have a stargazing page that links from their website. Part of the Official Texas Longhorn Herd lives there too and it's a kick to be close to them and see those horns much wider than your wingspan from within their swing radius. It's also where I saw my only for-sure puma track. BIG!


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