Sunday, July 19, 2015

Nebraska Star Party, 2015

Just back from NSP by way of Jeffers Petroglyphs (in Minnesota).

The Bad: This NSP did not have cooperative skies. I arrived Monday, and that night had about two hours of decent sky for imaging my southern targets--visual observers who can dodge clouds had a better evening. Tuesday night was cloudy with a threat of severe weather; many people fled their tents on hilltops and spent the night in low areas. As it turned out the bad weather never materialized. Wednesday night was cloudy, with a distant thunderstorm lighting up the sky around 2:30 A.M. Thursday night had promise, but a high cirrus layer with some opaque streaks cut the transparency to poor or worse.

NSP 2015 typical Sunset sky, a preview of the evening's coming lack of transparency

A big storm passing to the south at sunset on Tuesday.
Word was that the nights leading up to the "official" NSP week were clouded out as well.

The Good: This NSP had an attendance of about 275, reported to be the largest in ten years. (David Knisely reports attendance was 286--see Cloudy Nights.) The Wednesday speakers were excellent, and the program included a live stream of a New Horizons press conference.

I discovered the Valentine Public Library and spent a couple of mornings there in air conditioned comfort catching up on email and the news.

Imaging went only so-so. I think I finished my 100 AL Bright Nebula objects. It's not official yet as I haven't had time to process the images. I did have time to get a few extra objects, so I may end up with a total of 103. It's all luminance because of the conditions, though. I'll be posting the processed images tomorrow.

And how was the weather? Let's compare with the averages...
              Averages  Records   --- 2015 Observations ---
Date          High Low  High Low  High Low Departure Precip
July 12 (Sun) 89   60   109  42    94  68     +6     trace
July 13 (Mon) 89   60   107  41    93  57      0     none
July 14 (Tue) 89   61   105  44    90  60      0     none
July 15 (Wed) 89   61   110  40    79  66     -2     trace
July 16 (Thu) 89   61   113  45    88  60     -1     none

Very normal, really. A little warm at first, then cooler. It rained on Sunday night and unfortunately also on Friday, the public night. Overall the period was  more humid than normal with dew point temperatures in the upper 60s sliding down to the upper 50s.

The poor weather continued into my Friday at Jeffers Petroglyphs, where it was hot and humid (90F with a 73F dew point) and rain and severe weather was possible. I decided to return home, then drove back to Jeffers for Saturday. Once again it turned out that there was no rain, much less severe storms. Saturday night varied between episodes of sparkling clarity and hazy lack of transparancy that resembled NSP's weather. I collected 200mm LRGB frames of the Lagoon/Trifid area and reimaged one of the "bonus" objects that had been partially obscured at NSP.

Sad to say  that 2015 may be the last of the annual Jeffers gatherings once known as the Prairie Grass Stargaze.

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