Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spring Kitt Peak Star-B-Que, 2015

This last weekend was the astronomy club's Spring Star-B-Que, held at the Kitt Peak picnic area. It is a great venue - a spectacular dark site for observing, and the employee association allows use of their gas grill for a cookout beforehand. We've been doing it for ages, and a search of the blog recalls some great memories.

We went up early this time because we had a special guest - our niece Kathy came down from Chicago! We were both under the weather during her last visit in January, so she came down for the weekend just to join us on the Mountain. We toured all the telescopes that had visitor galleries, and her uncle (me) gave her a running commentary on what we could see as well as stories about the "olden times" when I used to work on the staff. She is shown at left stepping onto the access stairs to the 4-meter equatorial mount.

It was a beautiful day, but we were supposed to have clouds move in, which is what happened.  But the temperatures were moderate, and Kitt Peak is always a fun place to visit and play in nature.

In my recent obsession with 3D anaglyphs, I took a huge number of stereo pairs. I know I have at least one fan out there that enjoyed my recent postings, so will include a few more of the more impressive ones here. So get out your red/blue glasses and follow along! Many of the pairs were taken with my IR-converted camera, as it cuts through haze and the high-contrast images work well in the anaglyph format. At left is a wide view of the south side of the Observatory taken from the visitor gallery of the 4 Meter telescope, and at right is a closer view of the 2.1 Meter Telescope at center. For both, I used the south-facing windows of the gallery for the baseline of the stereo views, so an image was taken, then I quickly moved the 40 feet or so to the side to take another image to use as the 3D pair. It worked great and I think these aew quite spectacular!

Similarly, from the south side of the Observatory, from near the 2.1 Meter scope, I used the same technique to shoot a stereo pair of the 4-Meter. Many of the same telescopes are visible in both image pairs. The distinctive roll-off roof of the 16" used for the Nightly Observing Program is visible in the pairs above as well as here.

A little later, down in the picnic area, I tried my hand at some macro-pairs of bark and the new growth on the oak trees. At right here is some distinctive lichens growing on oak bark, and the close-up 3D looks very much like the topography of the local mountains and valleys!

Given the clouds we had a pretty good turnout - over a dozen showed up, though only 3 of us were optimists and packed telescopes! Most knew we would at least have a cookout, so showed up for that - though driving 50 miles one-way to get there takes some dedication! At left, Melinda and Kathy are shown as we got serious about moving from our social circle set up near the van, down to the pavilion to eat.  You can see that we had cool temps - everyone was bundled up!

The clouds alternately broke up and darkened again.  It looked like rain to the south, we might even have had a few drops at one point.  But the broken clouds at least provided a spectacular sunset.  Shown at right is the view as it set down the north side of a mountain, providing an unusual bite out of the setting sun.

We knew that sticking around for a few minutes would usually reward us with some more colors, and sure enough, while not spectacular, we got some pretty colors cast onto the clouds that remained.  Many folks were starting to stream out about then, and both Jupiter and Venus were blazing through the thin clouds.  I wasn't sure I wanted to go through the 20+ minutes of setting up the C-14 for Kathy to get her first view through a telescope, but luckily, someone plopped down an 8" telescope to provide her a view of Jupiter and moons and the brilliant globe of Venus.  Even as we tried to check out the Orion nebula or anything else, the clouds conspired against us, and we too left for civilization.  Still, a fun day touring the Observatory and making 3Ds.  Likely more of those to come!

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