Thursday, December 28, 2006
Observing in suburbia
Many people will travel to darker sites, or even build their own observatory to enjoy viewing & imaging celestial objects. The idea of packing everything up and driving to some location in the middle of nowhere does not appeal to me, at least not on a regular basis. This is not something I would do alone and I definitely do not want to leave my wife home alone all night. An observatory is just not an option as the neighborhood association would have a fit with such a structure. Someday I might have an observatory in a remote area of the southwest, but that will probably have to wait until retirement (and even then only if I'm lucky!). For now I am stuck with my suburban Atlanta location and it's light polluted skies. On top of that, my neighbor installed motion-detecting lights on the front and back of his house. What is really annoying is the front light, which has one light pointing out on the driveway, and another pointing diagonally back towards my yard - right at my observing location. He has conveniently aimed the motion sensor high enough to activate upon any car passing by, which in my neighborhood is about every two minutes. I could move over to the other side of the yard, but then I would have no view of Polaris, which is necessary for my mount's polar alignment. For the moment, I have resorted to clamping some aluminum corner pieces from a canopy we had on the deck to the fence, and hanging moving blankets between the pieces to block the neighbor's lights. Eventually I will build a small patio area so I have a flat, stable surface for my rig. Then I'll put up those aluminum canopy pieces around the patio to hold "light-blocking panels" which haven't been built yet. They will consist of a square PVC pipe frame with black duck cloth covering the entire area. These will make very lightweight panels that can be stored easily in the garage. It's the closest thing I can have to an observatory, and it's the best I can do in suburbia.