Mauna Kea visit
Last week we vacationed in Hawaii and met some friends for observing at the 9000 ft level of Mauna Kea, somewhat below the 14,700 ft summit where all the large observatories are located. The Visitor Center is located at this level, and every night hundreds of people converge on the parking lot outside the Vis to look thru a bunch of telescopes that the staff sets up. Chris Erickson drove us up there with his Astronomy Van and brought his C14 on his 1100 mount.
This first image shows two SCTs on equatorial mounts getting set up for the tourist onslaught that happens every night, 365 days of the year. In the background is the most massive mountain on Earth - Mauna Loa - rising above the marine layer (the peak is unfortunately hidden behind a nearby hill).
As twilight fades, visitors line up behind the scopes to look thru the eyepieces of various scopes set up by staff and amateur volunteers. This C14 is Chris Erickson's, who sets up his scope pretty much every Tuesday and helps people to look thru the eyepiece and explains what they are seeing. This night it was Jupiter and then the Moon.
People are delighted to see the Moon, even when full, and all you hear are gasps and WOWs as they see it for the first time at 80x. Chris even shows them how to take I-phone pictures of what they have seen. Chris is the one facing away from the scope, holding a quite bright red light so that people don't run into the tripod.
I was at another C14 and showed people the open clusters in Auriga. Celestron donated the tube assemblies for several C14s and C11s. The mounts came from AP. 900, 110 and 1200 equatorials on Losmandy tripod-piers. There is also a Televue 127 and various medium size Dobs for those who want to sail among the stars at lower powers.
During the early evening the sky was dark enough before the Moon rose to show the Zodiacal light with incredible clarity and brightness. I have seen it several times at the Mauna Kea Vis (short for Visitor center), but never got it quite right with my little Sony digital camera.
So here it is, my feeble attempt to capture this beautiful light show. Visually it reached up to the zenith, right past the Pleiades. On another occasion I also saw the Gegenschein past midnight, but not this night because of the Moon that rose later on.