Dark Sky Observing Thwarted

Above: The Large Magellanic Cloud.
Canon 60D on Star Adventurer mount, 24mm lens, 3 minutes, f4.5, ISO 1600, cropped.


Following our visit with Macarthur Astronomical Society to the Parkes Radio Telescope, we were invited to spend an evening with Central West Astronomical Society (CWAS) at their dark sky site at Cookamidgera.

The members of CWAS made us very welcome and provided hot soup and a mouth-watering barbecue, which went down very well.

We were anxious to take this unique opportunity of using a remote dark sky site in the NSW countryside, 350 km West of Sydney. I had no room for a telescope on this trip but did take my ‘Skywatcher Star Adventurer’ equatorial camera mount – in the hope of obtaining some wide field Milky Way images.

Unfortunately the sky let us down, giving us only tantalising glimpses of the views which would have been available to us on a cloud-free night.

We intended to capture the International Space Station transit of the Moon at 6.43 pm but that opportunity was shrouded by clouds.

Later the clouds completely cleared for half an hour but they were only teasing us and most of the evening was 80-90% cloud cover.

The photos I took were rather disappointing but are presented here as a record of an otherwise very memorable evening spent with the friendly members of CWAS.

2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 1 a Arrival
A cloudy arrival at the CWAS Observatory in Cookamidgera. The site is under development but already boasts a cabin with generated power, a portaloo and a concrete slab ready for a future roll off roof telescope housing.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 1 Late Afternoon
We lined our vehicles up and began unpacking our observing gear as the clouds looked even more ominous.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 2 Sunset
We were treated to a rather unusual sunset which lasted no more than a minute or two.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 3 Moon
We were hoping to watch the International Space Station transit the Moon but whilst the Moon did make an appearance, it disappeared as the transit time approached.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 4 Moon
Of course, it reappeared again as it got darker but the opportunity to image the transit had already been lost.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 5
The stars came out as the Moon got lower but they were only teasing us with a glimpse of what might have been.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 6 Moon Sirius Orion
The clouds cleared a little, to reveal a dark sky beyond, with Orion sinking in the West as a satellite passed through Canis Major.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 7 Magellanic Clouds
The Magellanic Clouds were outstanding but those clouds near the horizon were heading our way!
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 8
The Milky way was looking absolutely glorious overhead and I thought I had time to take a few images before the clouds arrived – but alas…….
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 9
The clear view of the Milky Way was swamped before I had the chance to record the spectacle – and within minutes the clearly contrasting view of our galaxy was gone and the opportunity was lost.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 10
There were gaps in the clouds and Jupiter remained prominent through the haze.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 11
Next to me, Dave was exciting the onlookers with his views of Jupiter, as red super-giant Antares shone brightly (centre). Alpha Centauri (Rigil Kentaurus) is the first magnitude star upper right.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 12
Another view of Jupiter, as it too became engulfed.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 13
The Moon was glowing behind the Western clouds.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 14
The Moon began to break through.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 15
An over-exposed crescent Moon was closing in on the horizon.
2018-05-19 Parkes Observing With CWAS 16
The Moon was gone and the gaps in the clouds had dwindled. All that remained were a few twinkly stars in the Northerly direction. I think they were laughing at us.

The observatory consisted of an open field with fine horizon views in most directions. CWAS had installed a porta-cabin with generated power and gas fired barbecue. Earlier that day they had poured concrete slabs for their port-aloo and future observatory dome.

2018-05-19 CWAS Viewing Night by J. Sarkissian 1
Sunset: image credit: John Sarkissian
2018-05-19 CWAS Viewing Night by J. Sarkissian 2
The barbecue: image credit: John Sarkissian
2018-05-19 CWAS Viewing Night by J. Sarkissian 3
Inside the observatory cabin: image credit: John Sarkissian.
2018-05-19 CWAS Viewing Night by J. Sarkissian 4
A frustrated but happy group picture of  CWAS and MAS astronomers: image credit: John Sarkissian.

A wonderful night, despite the unwanted cloud cover. Thanks, CWAS, I hope we can do the trip again sometime in the future!

Cookamidgera Observatory Parkes
Cookamidgera Observatory lies about twelve kilometres to the South East of Parkes. (Google Earth)

Cookamidgera ObservatoryThe Observing site is situated in a remote spot adjacent to a small family cemetery Cookamidgera coordinates: -33° 11′ 29.87″ S     148° 18′ 4.33″ E. (Google Earth).

 


Images © R.Powell – except where noted otherwise.


 

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