A good night, but oh, those winter maintenance blues!

Tonight’s Clear Sky Clock showed beautiful deep blues across the entire night, so one way or the other I was going to get outside under the stars. As usual, work issues kept me from getting home before sundown, and I fell asleep on the sofa, but still, the night was going to be clear right through. About 11 pm I woke up and started pulling myself together, and by 11.30 I was opening the door of the observatory. Everything looked good, and when I powered up I got all the usual beeps and bops. I undid the roof latches and began rolling back – beautifully smooth now that it’s been raised a little – until there was a sudden bang. I dashed outside, and everything looked ok, so I went back in and rolled a little further – bang! Every time a roller went over the seam on one side of the rails, the noise was terrific. I went outside again and took a closer look. The post on one side was completely loose, and every time a wheel hit the seam, the post lifted and dropped down again.

Taking an even closer look I found that frost over the winter had lifted one of the stones I use to anchor the post, and the stone had dropped a bit and was now tilted to one side – it looks as though I’ll have to pour a little sand or gravel in the spot and level things out again. It’s simple post-winter maintenance, but by then it was 12.15 and I was a little leery of doing everything in the dark, plus the bangs had already set several neighbours’ dogs to barking. I closed up the observatory and pulled out a travelling scope and a light tripod, and spent a while prowling the sky. Saturn was mostly out of reach behind the house – that’s what I get for dozing off – but Jupiter was coming along beautifully. There were a couple of moons close to the planet, and by around 1.30 one of them was in transit – according to Starry Night it was Io. I lost it in the glare, and never recovered it. I finally came in around 2.45 fairly happy with the night’s activities, and resolved to check out the post in more well-lit conditions in the morning.

After I packed up I realised I hadn’t taken a reading of the sky, but when I went to grab the meter I couldn’t find it – another casualty of the long winter break, and something else to look for and maintain. I should be annoyed, but somehow I can’t work up the anger – I’m just so happy to have been back outside without freezing important (to me, anyway) pieces of my anatomy.


Last night was clear, but cold, with the temperature dropping down to – 11 C. I stepped out briefly but didn’t roll the roof off the observatory — the warmth of my computer room called me like a Siren, and unlike Ulysses I declined to stop up my ears. I really should automate the scope so as not to lose these cold winter nights, but that project is one I don’t really expect to finish, mostly because I don’t have the expertise to do it inexpensively, and don’t have the funds to drop in a pre-built solution.

For all those heading off to observe the total eclipse of the sun, much luck, and clear skies!