Endless Winter!

Endless Winter!

There has not been weather like this in Missouri for at least 5+ years! According to weather records it was 2011 the last time we had any weather like this. Actually it seems that the 90’s were probably the last time we really had this type of weather pattern. School canceled, churches and businesses closed, these are the norm for this winter. In 2018 we barely even had snow at all!

One of the first things I noted upon moving from New Mexico to Missouri was the lack of clear skies! In New Mexico opening up the telescope every night for 2 straight weeks was not unusual. Opening up 2 nights in a row is very unusual here in Missouri. You make an adjustment on the telescope and it may be 2 weeks later before you get to try it out!

Since October there have only been a handful of clear nights and many of those those saw significant cloud cover by night’s end. The pattern has been ice and snow on Wednesday night with ice and snow on Sunday as well. One storm rolls out and a few hours later another storm moves in, with lots of high clouds in the hours between.

To add to the issue is the effect of all of this weather. My 2 telescopes are covered by heavy, weather resistant, tarps. Surprisingly enough, they work well. However, I had to cut short the last actual telescope session. It turns out the wind on the tarp loosened a knob and knocked the scope out of polar alignment. We did have a clear night at 7 degrees with a 25 mph wind but opening the telescope and polar aligning was not high on my list!

I also found that my cables get too stiff and hinder tracking when the temperature goes below 10 degrees. My current cameras are parallel port CCDs that use a heavy, stiff cable. This is enough to hinder tracking especially when the wind blows. In fact when my german equatorial mount would track, the power cable got so stiff that it would unplug itself. Obviously this required much more thought in routeing the cabling! None of this includes the ground heave during cold weather knocks the scopes out of alignment!

If these cold weather issues had ever confronted me before it would be easier to deal with them. A heat tape wrapped around the parallel cable is on the summer agenda of telescopic fix ups. Redoing the tripod foundations to minimize ground heave will also be a warm weather project. Hopefully getting some more clear skies will also be helpful!