All I can say is that I was extremely lucky to be a part of this grand observation session. I had no idea that I would be a part of it.
The venue is known more for its own beauty than for astronomy. It was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona USA. We were lucky to get an accomodation in a cottage in the only lodge in the North Rim area of the canyon.
I and two of my friends drove down to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. The journey was filled with breath taking views – from the famous Vegas strip to deserts of Nevada and Arizona, to grand forests and meadows of the Grand Canyon national park, ending at the rim of the canyon. At every turn, nature unfolded a different piece of its art. We reached there just in time for the sunset. I had heard a lot about sunsets there and what I saw simply cannot be put in words here. Even a 1000 pictures are not enough to give you a feeling of what it is like to be there.
After the sunset it started getting cold. I could not carry my telescope there because that was not the aim of the trip. I did not have a pair of binoculars. So I carried the best I could – my finderscope. But luckily, it was not needed. To my surprise, they were having an observation session just outside the lodge.
Equipement – Celestron C-11. I simply could not beleive my luck. It wasn’t even dark when the observation session started. The scope was pointed at Jupiter. Not the best that I had seen. Infact…. disappointing. But that was expected as it was lying very low and it was just after the sunset.
It was close to new moon and when it became dark, the sky was 6 and half magnitude. Milky way shone so bright that some confused it with clouds. At the same time, it was very very cold there.
Next target – M13 – first look and it was bright and resolved. Superb sight. One of the best sights of a globular that I had ever seen.
After that the gentleman who was operating the scope pointed it to M8, the Lagoon Nebula. As expected, it was bright and I could see it very clearly – clouds with Bok globules.
Next was M20, the Trifid Nebula. Another brilliant sight – three lobes visible with dividing lanes. Bright and brilliant.
By then, it was really cold. Close to freezing zero degrees.
Next object was none other than old M31. Bright, big and dissappointing. We did not switch to low power. Hence it was just the nucleus in the field.
That was it…. we froze and had to return.
Although it was a really short session, it was simply mind blowing….. adding that extra bit to make my Las Vegas and Grand Canyon trip one that I will never ever forget.
Next morning, we drove along the rim visited a couple of viewpoints. After that, we headed back to Las Vegas.
If nature can boast about Grand Canyon, and the heavens, man kind has Las Vegas to show off. Truly, first there is Las Vegas and then there is rest of the world. Definitely not a place for astronomy. But it is one place I could go any number of times. There is no difference between day and night. Another place you can’t just describe. Will share photographs soon.
This trip was definitely the best one in my life so far. I had seen two extrmes in a matter of 3-4 days. Nothing gets better than either.