PSWLAP Observing report Oct. 29 - Nov. 1, 1997


On Wednesday October 29, I left straight from work to drive to the PSWLAP located 180 miles due east of the bay area in the foothills of the Sierra.  I had Annie (my Obsession 18")  pre loaded and ready to go.  I was fortunate enough to finish up for the day and leave a tad early.  Getting ahead of the rush hour traffic is always a good thing.

I arrived at the site just after sundown. It was still light enough to set up but the sky held high clouds shrouding the deep sky splendors.  I decided to wait for a while and see what turned up.  At 7:30 PM the sky was clear and dark. I  backed the van down to the new observatory site to unload.

Out came the scope and supplies and within 20 minutes I was hunting down faint fuzzies in Picies.  I spent several hours finding new to me galaxies in Cetus, Pegasus, and Perseus. This was certainly one of the most productive nights for me in recent months.  It was the first real chance that I had to devote 100% of my time to looking up new objects and finding them.

The sky was beautiful and I could barely make out magnitude 6 stars here and there. Some animal gave me a scare.  It must have been a fox.  I have seen the fox out a lot recently there.

At 1:30 or so in the morning, I decided to pack it in and go to bed.  I would be up at the crack of dawn to start working on the observatory. My husband had cut down 5 trees in the area and we had poured footings for the platform a few weeks before.  In the morning, I would start on the project in earnest.

I arose early and headed down to Merced for building supplies. The place where I wanted to purchase my lumber was closed for the day so I had to go somewhere else and purchase materials of somewhat lesser quality.  But hey... 2x4 studs will work if they aren't pretty.

I spent most of the day building the platform.  A neighbor dropped by and took a look at what I was doing and made some suggestions for making it a bit sturdier.  I was thankful for his advice and he said that he would be coming by the following day to help.

It got dark faster than I thought it would.  I had accomplished far less than I had anticipated. I uncovered Annie (my scope's name) and broke out the maps and eyepieces. This night exceeded any other night I have been observing.  The sky was dark and clear, the rift through the Milky Way appeared as a deep canyon ready to swallow me.  Alas, I was so incredibly tired from all the manual labor of hauling supplies, moving concrete piers, dragging sheets of plywood around, and pounding nails all day, I was just too tired to observer for more than a couple of hours.  So I spent some time looking for a few new faint
fuzzies and then moved around to some of the brighter and more popular objects of the sky.  M15
and M2 have never looked so good to me as they did this night.

The following day, I spent a great part of the day implementing suggestions that my neighbor had given me. Then he showed up in the early afternoon and we proceeded
to finish the floor on the platform.  The two of  us worked well together, each knowing what to do and not getting in the way of each other.  He stuck around long enough to help put together the first framed wall and to lay out the others.  I continued to work on the structure and then darkness descended all to soon.  My husband arrived just as I submitted to exhaustion to take me to dinner.

We came back to a beautiful black sky. I spent some time at the scope and much more time with... ahem... a pair of 7x30 Tasco binos, on my new observatory platform, in the comfort of a laid back chair scanning the sky.

I spent the rest of the weekend pouring myself into carpenter by day and observer by night. Saturday night my muscles said no... no... sleep.. sleep.  But my principles would  not let me
waste such beautiful skies... after all... how often do you get 4 perfect nights in a row?

Sunday night as darkness fell, I finally gave in to my exhaustion.  The sky was beautiful but the scope had to be put away.  I had to come back to go to work the next day.  I was able to finish framing the walls and the trusses for the rolling roof.  Next weekend, hopefully, I can install the roof to protect the structure from the elements.

The outing gave a total of 60 nights to Annie since she came to stay with me last March 6. Yes... I am keeping count of the nights I spend under the skies with this telescope.  I have never in my whole life felt like this towards and inanimate object.

Well, it was a very productive weekend. I didn't get as much observing  as I would like but the end result will provide even more observing for me.  I must say that it would have been nice to have some company. ;)