I flew out to Fresno CA this past Thursday night with the goal of getting my telescope equipment that I had shipped out the week before and setting it up at Sierra Remote Observatories (SRO). The day I flew out, a news story broke about a massive meteorite producing fireball that happened off the coast of California and was thought to have dropped meteorites west of San Francisco. This was certainly a sign that my mission was Universe approved!
I picked up my gear (515 lbs) at a warehouse in Fresno Friday morning, packed my rented SUV chock-a-block full without a space to spare and then drove up the mountains to the Observatory inside the Sierra National Forest. Here’s a picture of the view near SRO.
The site is literally amazing — better than Disney World. There are about a dozen single station roll-offs all lined up next to each other in two rows and then one massive roll-off, quite possibly the largest roll off observatory in the world. This would be my telescope’s new home. The building is big enough to house 10-12 scopes and an amazing feet of creativity and engineering skills. I was literally blown away by what these guys had created here.
My first day started around 8:00 am, I had a hard time finding the warehouse thanks to apple maps, but ended up finding it by 10:00 am (I had to use my brain). I was at the site by 12 and then spent the next 7-8 hours unpacking and physically setting up all of the equipment. I had everything mounted by 8pm, but had not connected any of the computer or software. I so wanted to stay the night tinkering and observing but I was literally exhausted. I would handle this phase much better after a night of rest, so we had dinner and then called it a night.
The next morning I left my rented cabin in Shaver Lake and drove back to the observatory. I spent the day setting up the computer cables, software, debugging problems, tying down the scope and camera wires, testing all of the movement and rotations so that wires wouldn’t get tangled up, collimating the scope and that kind of stuff. I had this all about done by 4:00 PM and then drove into town to grab some food and warmer clothes. It was the peak of the Orionid meteor shower and it would also be my first light on the scope at its new home and I would be staying up all night long!
I planned to do my polar alignment, final collimation and other software setups and then hopefully spend the rest of the night imaging. I ended up spending most of the night collimating and didn’t get through everything I needed to. I jumped back and forth between telescope tweaking and photographing the meteor shower. This was a really cool place to do some wide field astrophotography.
I was so busy with the scope setup, I barely had time to observe the shower and only saw a few meteors. In addition a storm was coming in and the humidity levels were up, causing my camera to fog up. I was only able to get a few meteor photos, but I’m really happy with them considering the level of attention they received.
Here’s a nice long Orionid Meteor from the 2012 peak.
Another positive sign from the Universe and my favorite picture of the night was this shot of a meteor right inside Orion’s bow. How cool is that!? For those who don’t know, Orion was the hunter and carried a bow (or in some interpretations a shield), this meteor looks like one of Orion’s arrows right before it is shot.
Here’s a zoomed in crop of just the Orion arrow meteor.
I tinkered with the scope until dawn, but still had more work to do before it would be ready for imaging. I worked on it through the day on Sunday but wouldn’t you know it clouds rolled in Sunday night and I couldn’t finish everything off. That’s ok though, now that I’m back I should be able to get the rest of the work done and be imaging in a week or so.
I left California Monday morning and headed to Tucson to pick up my slice of Lunar Meteorite, but that is another story.