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A Summer Off at Mount Graham
A Summer Off at Mount Graham

My most memorable astronomy experience In the spring of 2005 I bought myself a ten inch Dobsonian telescope. I live in a small community in southeastern Arizona and our skys are good for observation. That summer, we were in an extreme drought and the summer rains were late. As a school teacher I get my summers off and I took advantage of the clear weather and hauled my scope the 110 miles from my home to Mount Graham (the Pinaleno Mountains) just south of Safford Az. At the time the largest scope in the world was under construction just a few miles from where I would set up my scope. The main road up the mountain peaks at a saddle at just over 9600 feet elevation near the Columbine Work Center and I set up my camp on the edge of an old rock quarry for maximum exposure (the forest on Mount Graham is very dense). The road up Emerald Peak (10,500 feet) where the University of Arizona scope was being built, was off limits and this was as high as I could get legally. In the evenings I would set up my scope early and start out by observing Jupiter and the Galilean moons. As the sky darkened I would search for other, farther objects. As good as the sky watching is in the valleys (4100 ft.), I didn't think that a mile higher would make as much difference as it did. Leo, Virgo, Coma Bernice, and Ursa Major were the most prominent constellations in my night sky. I had a "go to" feature that I was talked into buying for my scope, but I found just roaming across the night sky was so much more satisfying for me. When I found something that would catch my eye, and interest, I would later identify it in one of my books. These summer constellations have so many features (mostly galaxies) it was only the cold or lack of sleep that would force me to stop for the night. For two weeks of moonless nights I searched the sky. What really surprised me was that I could view as many as six galaxies in one field of view using my 25 millimeter eye piece. I was astonished at how many distant features there are in my visible universe. One of the last features "I" discovered was the Ring Nebula just east of Vega. It fascinated me and I had to immediately look it up in my book just to see if it was real. My favorite deep space object would have to be one I located that trip. NGC 4565 has never looked as good as it did during that period. I have always loved the night sky, but that two week period in 2005 will by a time that I will never forget.

Date Taken: 07/18/2011
Author: Stephen S
Category: Orion's Astronomy Essay Contest (2009)

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