Jun 1, 2010

Frozen Toes and Uncooperative Skies

How was your weekend? I look forward to checking in on how you're all doing.

Moody skies and weather persist in Central Oregon. Summer is taking its sweet time, as always. So while most of you were digging your toes in hot sand and wearing shorts and T-shirts, I was donning my winter gear. Thermals included. And, I wasn't sorry.

Friday was one of the coldest nights I ever spent up at PMO [Pine Mountain Observatory]. Icy. We watched the thermometer dip to 31, 30, 29 ... It got down to 28. Despite thermals, 2 sweaters, gloves, scarf, hat & hoods, I froze. We only had 5 visitors, so I didn't even bother taking a smaller telescope out onto the pad. I stayed int the dome where there is at least protection from the wind and 5 degrees more of warmth. It didn't matter Friday. We all froze. By 10:30 p.m. I was on my way home with the heater cranking. We did get to see Saturn, Mars, M5, the Sombrero Galaxy, M13 and Spica.

An hour to get home and I was still shivering climbing into the down comforter. I awoke several hours later way too warm, but it was nice to be too warm instead of icy.

I've gotten smarter since my first year working at the observatory and take a thermos of hot tea with me instead of cold water. If I'm not yet cold and drink cold water, I get cold fast. It does me less favors if I'm freezing. Hot tea is much kinder.

Saturday looked less promising in the morning, but the day improved considerably by the time I made my way out to the mountain. Big fluffy clouds with lots of clear sky between and it was warmer. Compared to Friday night, Saturday seemed balmy. That's one positive about the cold Friday. The rest of the year will seem nice in comparison. However, as soon as we opened the dome to get the telescope ready, it clouded over. We managed to show Saturn, M5 and a star before a window of opportunity closed off.

I saw a small group of antelope on my way up Saturday. Very elusive beasts, they were pretty to see. That was my only wildlife spotting. No gangsta cows. No bunnies. No deer. How odd. One of my fellow volunteers said they saw a cougar sauntering down the road earlier in the week. Wow.

No Yeti sightings. They're as elusive as the antelope and cougar.

For the brave souls that spent a couple of very cold nights with us, thanks for visiting. Hope you can come back when we have a warmer night with better sky.