Astronomy and astrophotography under California stars

Imaging Trip in the Mojave National Preserve

February 12-14, 2010: It all started on Facebook. Joe's wall post consisted of one word... "Mojave". It beckoned me. Having waded my way through two months of El Niņo rains, the call was strong and I could not ignore it. A few days later, there we were (Joe, Todd, Danny, and, later, Robin) in the middle of the southern California desert, somewhere between Baker and Kelso. Joe said, "Mojave", and it was good.

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Location: This spot in the Mojave National Preserve is down a 0.4 mile dirt road that comes off Kelbaker Road, which runs between the towns of Baker (at the north end) and Kelso (at the south end). It's very easily accessible.

Weather: On this weekend in February, daytime temperatures were around 70°F. Nighttime temperatures were in the neighborhood of 34-38°F. The ground was dry at the surface but dark and damp just under the top layer due to all the rain in the weeks prior. This probably contributed to the damp conditions we experienced. The telescopes dewed up by 11pm-1am or earlier. Dew heaters were nowhere to be found because, well, because we were in the southern California desert and we don't believe in them out here.

Sky: The skies were quite steady both nights. Guide corrections on my mount at 530mm FL were in the neighborhood of 0.04-0.15 pixels. Darkness is excellent at this site. The western horizon shows sky glow but it doesn't come up more than about 15-20°. To the north there is a noticeable glow from Las Vegas. It's also not very objectionable. The horizons to the east and south are very dark down to the horizons. There is a considerable amount of air traffic traveling roughly north to southwest (and vice versa) at about 20-30° west of the meridian. It settles down a bit the later it gets.