Monuments at Night, Nov 5

The Orion Nebula, the central star in Orion’s sword.

On this day, I manage to travel to Four Corners, a geographic location that is only meaningful to cartographers marking the human-made political bounds of different territories.  There is certainly no physical or geographic rartionale behind it, as the view from the constructed concrete platform holding the National Geologic Survey brass benchmark is the same in all directions.

Still, it is intriguing to consider this arbitrary location:  N 36o 59’ 56.2”, W 109o 02’ 40.6”, an artifact of human organization.  There is another human-made organization of the time of day, which (mostly) correlates with the position of the sun.  I find myself at the marker as it approached its local noon (37.2o elevation, 180.1o azimuth), and could not resist taking a picture of the GPS display of this space-time intersection.

My GPS receiver at Four Corners at high noon.

Not everyone was as enamored as I was.  A young man climbed down from the pedestal after taking a selfie muttering “That’s the worst three dollars I ever spent”, begrudging the gate fee.  It is a small revenue stream for the Navaho Nation landowners, about 100-150 visitors per day.

As I returned from this excursion I watched the clouds build up, and wondered how the evening’s photo session would go, but by sunset I was able to view Monument Valley in the intense colors of late afternoon beauty light.

I wasn’t able to claim my favorite campground site 25, but I got the next best one, 26.  There is more activity in the campground on this Saturday night, and the wind has diminished a bit, but is still annoying, especially since I am not in my wind-protected area at the visitor center.

I continued to improvise for my lack of planning and packing.  I strapped some heavier hand tools using luggage straps to try and balance the declination axis on the telescope mount.  I found that I could wear two pair of reading glasses to better see the camera display.  Using a tripod as an observing chair didn’t work, the legs collapsed.   I carried on.

It was a productive night.  I was able to make a number of guided exposures through the telescope.  While doing so, my film cameras were open and recording the passage of the stars across the scenery.  But when I closed their shutters at 2:30 am, I discovered that a lens cap was still on.  I’ve certainly made more mistakes on this trip than I am accustomed to.

But I discovered that my pictures through the telescope (mostly) worked!  I was successful at imaging the Orion Nebula but not the Cone.  However, my additional target of the Pleiades yielded a beautiful portrait of them.

The Pleides, also known as the Seven Sisters, (and used on the Subaru logo), showing the faint reflection nebulae that surround them.

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