Friday Night Viewing
Kirby Storter Roadside Park in Collier County Florida
June 4, 2010
I just acquired an SXVF-M8C camera, and miraculously I only had to wait a few days for clear skies. By early afternoon a large mass of stable dry air was situated just offshore Cape Sable, and most fortuitously the upper level winds were light and were coming directly from the southwest. I estimated that the entire southwestern corner of the Florida peninsula would be completely clear by sunset, so I sneaked out of work early and loaded up my equipment and headed off to KSRP (Kirby Storter Roadside Park).
I was not disappointed by my guess of the nighttime weather, as conditions could not have been better. There were no clouds or haze, the air was stable and dry, and even the brightest of the stars were not twinkling. There was not as much as a breath of wind and the nighttime temperature did not drop low enough to reach the dew point, so there was no dew at all (not even at 2AM). To top it all off, I did not encounter a single mosquito during the entire evening (zero, zilch, none). I don't know what happened to all the mosquitoes, but maybe the gigantic oil slick in the Gulf has exterminated them (good riddance).
Sunset comes late this time of year and the twilight is long, and since moonrise was somewhat before 2 AM, I only had time for three quick snapshots during the short period of darkness. First, I focussed my telescope on the enigmatic galaxy pair NGC5194 & NGC5195 (aka M51). After a couple of hours I felt I had collected a sufficient number of its 25 million year old photons, so I slewed the scope over to the largest of the northern globular clusters, NGC6205 (aka M13). Since M13 is 1000x closer than M51, its photons are a lot younger and brighter so single hour was more than enough to resolve the cluster into stars. After that, I only had about 45 minutes till moonrise, so I outfitted the camera with a wide-field lens and spent the remainder of the darkness capturing photons coming from the region of sky surrounding the constellation Scorpius.
The darkness of this site is uncanny. At midnight, I measured the background skylight at 22.3 magnitude, plenty dark for good imaging.
The SLR camera lens used for the wide-field shot does not have the crispness of an actual astronomical telescope. Its field of view is 56x38 degrees with a spatial resolution of 1.1 arcminutes per pixel.
Photons don't really get old and dim, I was just having a little fun.