Lights down and stars up

Every amateur astronomer’s dream is to have totally dark skies, right in their own backyard.

No time spent loading all your telescopes, binoculars, tables and gearboxes into your vehicle; just to unload all your gear as you set up at your favourite observing site.

Finally, when it is time to go home, you still have to pack everything up and load your equipment into your vehicle. Then, after you drive home, you unload all your gear. Again. Then you are finally done.

This is why amateur astronomers are usually very well organized. The less gear you take, the less work there is to do and, therefore, more time for observing.

One must realize that astronomy and photography gear is delicate and you have to be careful. They do not like to be bumped about and everything has to be sealed properly before storing your precious gear away.

If you do not follow these rules, you will be spending even more time doing maintenance and cleaning. Performing these tasks at 5 a.m. after an eight-hour deep sky marathon can be trying to say the least.

Bonus! No journey to and from your observing site and no loading and unloading the van. Having all the conveniences of home like fresh coffee, tools and your choice of observing chairs makes this the next best thing to owning your own observatory.

When the power went out the other night, everyone was all concerned and excited, for all the wrong reasons. Smart people went outside, sat on their porch and enjoyed the amazing Yukon Night Skies from home. Conditions were perfect.

A three-hour power outage is the best present that I could wish for. Quickly, I setup on the front porch and got my gear ready to go. The sky is still not completely dark but Saturn is peeking out and a few stars right overhead.

By around midnight, the night sky is truly impressive and no sign of the power coming back on. Perfect! Now Saturn is brilliant in the sky and presents an awesome view in a small telescope.

At the eyepiece, the rings were extremely well defined and the surface edges were very sharp. Another thing that I noticed was there were many more stars in the surrounding star field than normal, presenting an almost 3-D effect.

Mars, on the other hand, was not ruddy red in colour anymore; it was now a deep maroon. The view was a very sweet, small, but well-defined circle. Even in binoculars you could not help but be impressed.

As for deep sky targets like nebula, galaxies and star clusters, the view was no less impressive. Nebula appeared to be much brighter, even in binoculars, and galaxies filled the eyepiece with detail at low power. Star clusters looked almost magical in the eyepiece, very sharp pinpoints of light in the night sky.

To sum it all up, I had a blast. To be able to look across the cityscape and not have any light pollution was exceptionally cool.

As the power was restored and all the light came on, you very quickly realized how much light pollution is present even in our remote location.

The views were greatly diminished by almost 30 per cent, by my reckoning. Let there be no question about it, the darker your night skies the more impressive the view.

So the next time the power cuts out, head outside and check out the night sky from home and enjoy the show.

As this is my last column until fall, I will say thank you to all my readers and to Darrell, at What’s Up Yukon, for letting me share these adventures with you. If you are staying home this summer, enjoy the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and, with the right safety equipment, solar viewing.

See you in the fall with more discovery and adventure in those amazing Yukon Night Skies.

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