Greetings from Palmia Observatory
Well we just got back and unpacked from our road trip looking for the Zodiacal light and now have to repack for a cruise to Iceland in lieu of the cancelled Ukraine cruise.
So after receiving the cruise cancellation notice we just applied all of the travel vouchers to a round the island cruise to Iceland. We have been to Reykjavik before, but never had a chance to see the northern portion of the island. Still keeping our fingers crossed that this cruise in July will still go.
|Ocean cruise around Iceland (Source: Viking Cruises)|
In the meantime, we just got back from our road trip, with round trip just a bit less than 1100 miles, through southern Utah, Nevada and Arizona to visit relatives, see the sights and maybe even find the Zodiacal light in the dark skies. Previous discussion about the Zodiacal light and planning to finally include the search for it in our observational plans can be found in the blog posts of March 22 and April 6, 2020.
But first, we had to stop and see Big Sister, Ilene and visit with her for a couple of days. This photo below shows her with one of her first drawings that I was so impressed with, now going on 60 years, because the dog's eyes would just follow me around no matter what location from which I looked at the drawing. Good memories and good to see you, Ilene!
|Big Sister Ilene and one of her first drawings (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
So we had a nice visit, but the time table was also controlled by the phase of the moon and we had to continue looking for the Zodiacal light in the moonless dark skies of northern Arizona. The weather was great with not many clouds and it was a bit warmer than in OC. Our first stop was in Kingman, AZ. We had a good time exploring this old Route 66 highway town, especially the flaming Cadillac Margaritas at Oyster Mexican Seafood Restaurant. Umm, good, thank you to all the Oyster staff!
|Surprised by flaming Cadillac Margarita at Oysters in Kingman, AZ (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Staying in Kingman, initially just as a stopover on the path that would take us home through Oatman, AZ, which Resident Astronomer Peggy wanted to see because of the old mining towns history and abandoned miners burros that continue to freely roam the streets. But, we also used this opportunity to take a look at the dark skies for any sign of the Zodiacal light. We had identified a turn off location along Highway 93 into Kingman and elected to just go back to that site for some night time observing.
|iPhone map location along Highway 93 outside of Kingman, AZ (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
In retrospect, we probably should have explored an observing location south of Kingman, along I40, but we didn't do this. The Golden Valley location is an unincorporated area of houses and trailers, but no commercial center or businesses. Anyway, here is the DSLR on flimsy tripod, 18mm, 8 second exposure from that location.
So we see some highway traffic and a bright glow above the distant mountains. Could this be the Zodiacal light? The observed light does have sort of a pinnacle type expected shape, but is quite bright in just an 8 second exposure.
|Westward view from Highway 93 with DSLR, 18mm, ISO800, 8 seconds (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Ok, well, we are looking west, but we know that the Zodiacal light is light reflected from dust that is in the ecliptic plane. Let's see where the ecliptic plane is found in the sky where we were looking, In this Sky Safari Pro screenshot you see the ecliptic plane as the yellow line. Now we could see that the suspected light was indeed west of Orion, but maybe not quite far enough westward. It turns out in retrospection that Mars, which would have been seen on the Ecliptic, would have been visible too, but I couldn't recognize anything because of seeing so many stars in the dark skies.
|Ski Safari Pro screenshot showing ecliptic in westward view (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
So, it might be that the bright pinnacle of light is coming from some source in Golden Valley. But there is a bit of diffuse light in the right side of the photo, going from the horizon up to the Pleiades, in the upper right. Hmm, maybe this is the Zodiacal light? Darn, we could have found a darker sky location and I wish I had taken some longer exposures from this location!
Anyway, that night is over and we move on down the winding road, along portions of the old Route 66, through the old mining town of Oatman, AZ. In this photo, you can see one of the freely roaming burros, descendants from the long ago abandoned miners burros, just going where it wants to go.
|Abandoned burros and tourists in downtown Oatman, AZ (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
The Resident Astronomers enjoyed the sights and shops and I stopped along the sidewalk to pet one of the alien creatures. The burros just seem to go about their sleepy looking journey, irrespective of us, although on occasion we did see them take a snack from tourists and one even reached out and grabbed a mouthful of a a stuffed animal from one surprised tourists hand. Anyway, one of the burros didn't seem to mind that I gave it a friendly pet.
|Resident Astronomer pets one of the Oatman, AZ, free roaming burros (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
But it was time to leave Oatman and head on to our next stop in Laughlin, NV. On the way out of town, one of the burros just wandered in front of our car and just stood there waiting and eating something on the road. We were just stuck there and when it looked like the animal was ready to move off the road, a young burro calf came up and approached our traffic stopper and started nursing. Well, again, we were stuck there, holding up traffic, but eventually the pair moved off the road and we were free to continue.
So, we continued down the road and instead of spending the night in Needles, CA, we elected to stay in Laughlin, NV. We assumed that we could relax a little more in Laughlin and still have a chance to find some dark skies that evening. But, Laughlin, had even more restrictive pandemic lockdown rules in place. In Laughlin, when you sit at the bar, not only is there a plastic shield between each patron and the bartender, you are required to wear a mask and only remove it long enough to take a sip from your drink. And, to make matters worse, they couldn't serve my martini in a real martini glass and instead I had to suffer drinking my martini from a plastic cup!
|At the Edgewater Casino bar in Laughlin, NV (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
So, after suffering through a martini in a plastic cup, we drove south of Laughlin about 20 miles, again looking for dark skies and the Zodiacal light. Hmm, not much light to the west, even with longer exposures, but then this view looking primarily northward shows a lot of light on the horizon. Wonder what that light is? Hmm, I think that the fact that the view is to the north, this Resident Astronomer just discovered Las Vegas!
|DSLR image from outside Laughlin, NV, 18mm, 47 seconds (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
This map image shows Laughlin and the northward location of Las Vegas, just 90 miles away. Yep, it looks like we can see Las Vegas in this 47 second exposure.
|iPhone map screenshot showing Laughlin and Las Vegas (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Finally, our little road trip comes to an end. In reviewing some of the photos, we had a lot of fun and it was good to get out in a more natural setting. But this mask less and frowning photo of the Resident Astronomer shows 99% disappointment with the martini in a plastic cup and about 1% disappointment in not getting some good images of the zodiacal light. Hmm, at least this astronomer wannabe places the right value on the relative importance of the two events!
|Resident Astronomer can frown when he wants to at martini in a plastic cup (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Until next time, here from our burrow, stay safe, as we recover more of our freedom,