Larch Mountain, 5-11pm, Saturday 10/25/08:
Four of us from our local astronomy club took advantage of the clear weather for a quick trip up to Larch Mountain. It's about an hour's drive from the Portland/Vancouver area. I would definitely recommend the site. There is a large paved parking lot, that was packed with cars, when we got there at 5pm, but we had a lower, gravel parking lot all to ourselves. There are fairly tall trees around the perimeter, but this is no problem unless you want to view objects very low in the sky. The sky is not quite as dark as at some sites further east, but it's not far off. And, it doesn't take 3+ hours, and a full tank of gas to get there. The temperature (we were at about 3,000 feet elevation) was crisp, but not uncomfortable. I would rate the "seeing" this night as a 2-3/5 and the transparency 3-4/5.
I spent much of my time struggling with my imaging setup. My mount takes a ton of tweaking the hand controller to get the tracking reasonably accurate. I took 18 exposure sequences of M33 before getting a useable image. However, I did get some great views of star clusters in Don's fine 5" WO refractor (and TeleVue Ethos eyepiece) and some wonderful nebula views in Eric's 16" highly-modified Lightbridge Dob.
Below is a preliminary processed image of M33, the Pinwheel galaxy in Triangulum. I think there is a better photo in the data if I can bring it out. These are about 70 useable subs at 11.3 sec per exposure. Talk about bloated stars....... LOL Also, a rather poor image of M15. By the time I got around to it, the wind was blowing pretty good. The focus on both images needed improvement and the exposure settings at the camera were not quite right.
* The view of the gravel parking lot at Larch Mountain, Oregon - looking south toward Mt. Hood
Taken at about 5:30pm.