The Okie-Tex Start Party (http://www.okie-tex.com/) promises some of the "darkest skies in the Southwest." And according the dark site website there is not much of any light pollution in the Oklahoma panhandle that could wash out your view. But, exogenous sources of light are only of the two arch nemesis of the hobby astronomer. The other one being aerosol consisting of a visible mass of tiny liquid droplets, frozen crystals, or other particles suspended in the atmosphere - most of us call them clouds. And just as mother nature completely screwed with every single one the AAA's weekend events at North-South Lake during 2018, it was the random atmospheric perturbations and low pressure areas in Oklahoma and New Mexico between October 6 and 13th that turned the most optimistic participant into a downtrodden disappointee.
By sheer luck of travel plan, I arrived in Boise City on Friday, October 5th, to get away from the hustle, bustle, and light pollution of New York and enjoy some time in quiet solitude and nature. It really was a gorgeous, clear Friday afternoon arriving in Amarillo and a two-hour drive North to Boise City through the Rita Blanca National Grasslands. On the flight to Amarillo, I captured these altocumulus mid-level clouds, some call them mackerel clouds, that should have been a harbinger of changing weather conditions or this piece of lore would not exist: "Mare's tales and mackerel scales make tall ships bring in their sails". For more information on cloud patterns visit https://scijinks.gov/clouds/. In addition, I just started reading the book "How To Read Nature" by Tristan Gooley. It is a quick read and awakens and sharpens your observing senses.
I arrived at my motel in Boise City, a small town with a Dollar General store and a gas station, I decided to check the weather forecast courtesy of cleardarksy.com for the weekend, which wasn't very promising at all:
As a hobby astronomer, or scientist, you need patience - a lot of it - and the flexibility to change plans at a moments notice. I decided to scout out the area for a conducive location to study and photograph the night sky and there were plenty of opportunities around. I found a little spot in the prairie off a road that leads into Black Mesa State Park & Nature Preserve. After a brief supper, I made my way over there to capture the sunset against the vastness of the plains on a clear, low-humidity, warmish night, resulting in good astronomical seeing conditions, with just the howling of wild animals in the distance, looking for an appetizing snack, probably. My exact location was 36º48'0" N 102º49'16". My trusted rental equipment was a Sony A7R III and a SONY 16-35MM/2.8 GM ZOOM FOR FS7/A7 lens. Identical to the gear I used for my trip to Chile's Atacama. Below are pictures from the beautiful Friday evening and the observation report. As luck has it, there was a street sign nearby and I used my red Starlite mini to bounce the red off the sign for an added creative element. Unfortunately, none of the animals came close enough to ask if they wanted to model.
A beautiful sunset setting the stage
1/500 sec at f/2.8 ISO 3200
The Milky Way appearing with Jupiter setting and Arcturus bright at the edge
30 sec at f/2.8 ISO 2000
Towards the Galactic Center of the Milky Way with Mars to the Left
30 sec at f/28 ISO 6400
Looking Southwest towards the Milky Way with Airglow Bands
30 sec at f/28 ISO 6400
Pleijades Rising - Capella to the Left - The Andromeda Galaxy as a smudge almost directly above - Great Square of Pegasus at 11 o'clock
30 sec at f/2.8 ISO 6400
Observation Report, Friday October 5th, 2018:
Black Mesa State Park & Nature Preserve
Cimarron County, OK
Bortle Rating Class 1
Observed in prairie close to road. Horizon flat. Occasionally, headlights of passing cars driving to the Black Mesa campground.
Astronomical Times (CDT)
19:57 Civil Twilight
20:27 Nautical Twilight
20:57 Astronomical Twilight
Weather & Conditions
Clear skies. Light breeze throughout night.
Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude: ~6.5
Milky Way observed in detail