It would seem that winter is here in full force, bringing icy cold temperatures that chill you to the bone, unless you are prepared for the onslaught.
Are you prepared? Is your observing equipment ready to go out in the frosty Yukon deep winter night for another evening of observing?
I have recently received multiple inquiries as to how best to deal with this problem and these are my solutions:
When the temperature drops below –25 degrees Celsius, I start with two pairs of track pants, one T-shirt, one bulky sweatshirt and one pair of deep winter coveralls (the ones with the straps and not the sleeves).
Add to this one Arctic parka, two pairs of thermal socks, feather down boot socks and a pair of Sorel boots and you are just about done. All you need now is gloves and a toque and you are ready.
As for preparing your equipment for this kind of torture, it will depend on what you use to observe the night sky.
If you use a big dobsonian telescope there is very little preparation to do. You may want to pick up a secondary mirror heater and install a light shield but other than that you are pretty well set to go.
When using a refractor, you must have a dew shield and you probably should be using heaters of some kind on the telescope objective and the eyepiece.
As for compound or Schmidt Cassegrain telescopes, you will need to add a dew shield and a heater on the front of the telescope and an eyepiece heater is a nice feature as well.
The problem with deep-winter observing is not the glass, it is the mechanics and the mount that are the problem.
As your telescope comes from a nice warm house to a chilly night, the temperature difference can be as much as 50 degrees Celsius. When this happens, your telescope parts don’t work as well, much like your car or truck and, just like your car or truck, you must be prepared.
Replace the grease in your mount with Arctic winter grease and replace all the plastic knobs with larger metal levers that will not break and are easily used with a glove. All of my motor mount covers are loose so that I can easily remove them and readjust them for optimum performance.
As for computers, well they just do not work that well at these temperatures without heaters and protection from the elements.
So after all of this, is it worth it? The answer is definitely, yes. The sky is as dark as it will get and there is an endless supply of celestial objects to explore and discover in the frigid Yukon winter Night sky.
From planets like Mars and Saturn to deep sky targets like the Whirlpool galaxy and the great Orion nebula, there is never a shortage of celestial jewels to observe and photograph.
Clear Skies from James “Deep Sky” Cackette.
Feb. 23 Saturn rises at sunset and is in the sky all night.
Feb. 28 Last quarter moon.