Winter Deep Sky Camp – 20th to 22nd January 2012

DSC Logo A Deep Sky Camp was held at the campsite at Blacklands Farm from Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd January.

I arrived at DSC at around 4:30pm, just as the sun was setting. I quickly unpacked and erected the tent as quickly as I could. Luckily it was a pop-up tent so this didn’t take long. Already there was Duncan, Jim, Fay, Chris, Rachel and Francesca. Unfortunately it was already cloudy and looked like it was going to stay that way for the rest of the night. Some of those there were being optimistic and set their equipment up but most didn’t bother. Later in the evening Mark and Julian turned up and wisely set up their tents away from Jim’s as they had clearly heard of his reputation for snoring.

As it was cloudy we all went inside and outside (it wasn’t big enough to house us all) Chris and Rachel’s gazebo. Out came the beer, wine and cider. Then Rachel did a run to the local Fish and Chip shop. The rest of the night was spent chatting, eating and drinking. People started to drift off to bed and by midnight there was no-one left.

The next day started off windy and cloudy and it wasn’t looking very promising. The forecast for later in the day said it was gong to clear, but be windy. Throughout the day people chatted with the odd person going off into the village or the local camping shop. Before it got dark everyone set up their equipment in anticipation of a clear night. By about 6pm Rachel turned up with a pot of quorn chilli and also apple crumble with ice cream and everyone tucked in.

The sky suddenly started to clear so everyone ran off to their posts to start polar aligning and star calibrating. But shortly after the clouds rolled over again. For the next few hours it was like this with clear patches followed shortly by cloud. Approaching midnight several people had had enough and packed their equipment away. They soon came to regret it though as at about midnight the clouds rolled away once more, but this time they stayed away. For the next 2 hours till 2am those that had stuck it out were rewarded with clear skies, although the transparency wasn’t great.

Jim had guiding issues and wasn’t able to get a decent image despite his best efforts. Julian was using a 400m Canon lens on The Rosette and managed to get a decent amount of subs. Both Mike and Duncan had already packed their gear away but used their DSLRs with wide angle lenses and interval timers to capture some wide field images that will be turned into time-lapse animations at a later date. Whilst this was going on Julian, Duncan and Mike sat in their chairs with binoculars and tried to spot as many faint fuzzies as possible. By 2am everyone had had enough and retired to bed.

The next morning it was nice and sunny. Although temperatures hovered around 8° so not particularly warm. The sound of sausages and bacon being cooked could be heard across the campsite. After breakfast everyone started to pack up quickly for fear of rain as the clouds rolled in and the sky darkened.  I was the last to leave at around midday, by which time the sun had come out. Overall a very successful Deep Sky Camp.

Mike McRoberts – Jan 2012

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