Sunday, December 20, 2009

Astro-Camping at Caprock State Park

We have gone camping at Caprock State Park in the Texas panhandle a number of times.  It is one of our favorite destinations because it has a dark sky, flat terrain in the campground, and wonderful hiking in the daytime. This trip was our second time lugging a truck full of telescopes. We stopped for a week on our way to Las Cruces for the holidays.

The state park is near the small town of Quitaque, which I have yet to figure out how to pronounce.

The hiking trails at Caprock are wonderful.  The geology is similar to those at Palo Duro SP but the setting is more intimate.

There are several trails that hike up onto the mesa tops giving a great view of the canyons:

We have camped at the same site, number 27, each time we have come to Caprock. We have plenty of space to setup our telescopes and the low bushes protect us from neighbors. On this trip however, no neighbors, no white lights .... ahhhhh.

My setup includes a Celstron CGE mount, a TMB-130SS refractor, a Canon 450D DSLR and an Orion ST-80 with a Starshoot Auto Guider. The small Windows computer on the tripod table controls the mount and cameras. This time, I brought a monitor and a lit keyboard.

Its pretty cold in the winter time, so I setup a laptop inside the trailer connected to a wireless router.  I am able to monitor the outside computer via VNC.

This is one of the images I took on the last day of the trip.  It is the galaxy NGC-2403.  This is a cropped image from  36x15min @ ISO 800 with a Canon 450D DSLR through a TMB-130SS refractor.

This image of the PacMan Nebula (NGC-281) was taken with the same equipment but 8x30min @ ISO 800.