Moro, OR Ranch Dark Sky Winter Observing Trip

By: Vlad Fedosov

We had a very rare clear moonless night here in the Northwest in the middle of February. Once I confirmed with the weather report that it was indeed going to stay clear I imidiatly jumped on my astronomy clubs webs forums to see if anybody is going to try and get out to some dark skies for some observing. To my delight, a club member had a likeminded idea and had booked a small ranch in north central Oregon for the night of Feb. 12th. This was a short notice thing and no one had been out there so only me, Mark, and Prem were able to go. This ranch was in a very small town named Moro owned by a very nice guy named Steve. The drive from Portland, OR was only about two hours. I had a little work to finish up before taking off. Once finished I loaded up my 16″ LightBridge into the car making sure I did not forget anything crucial and took off. Mark and Prem were already there with their equipment setup when I arrived.

I was the unofficial photographer of this trip I suppose as I brought my DSLR. As the photo shows the observing area is nice and flat with a good view in almost every direction. The sky darkness is breathtaking considering we were only 2 hours away from town. I had plans to work on a list of the 110 brightest NGC objects. Having chatted with the guys a bit I setup my equipment while it was still light out and admired the nice location of this ranch. By now it was around 5 pm and it was already getting very cold. We all agreed that having a warm house to warm up in was going to be a lifesaver this night.

Once night fell I layered up in all the clothes that I had and was fairly warm. I began by observing m42 as it was well placed in the sky and one of my favorite DSO. The view of m42 through the 16” with my Explore Scientific 25mm 100* eyepiece was the best I have ever had! The entire arc of M42 was easily visible with a UHC filter and the fishes mouth region displayed a lot of detail with yellow and pink color that that overlaying the general green of the rest of the nebula. The sky transparency was excellent and there was almost no light pollution at this location. I already knew that it was going to be a great night!

Prem was doing imaging and once he setup his fully auto rig he stopped by and we were checking out quite a few of the objects with me. Since I’m thinking of trying out imaging myself and having just acquired all the basic equipment needed I took the opportunity to absorb as much astrophotography knowledge from him as possible. I’m very thankful for all the knowledge that he shared. After working through all the NGC’s on my list in Orion we decided to take a look at the horsehead and flame nebula. Putting in the 25mm ES with a H-beta filter made the horsehead nebula fairly obvious under these ideal conditions. The flame nebula was easy even unfiltered. We decided that a bit less magnification may help this extremely dim and vast complex so I switched out to the 42mm GSO super view. While the FOV was a big ugly at the edges the nebula did become even more obvious. Very memorable view.

Mark had the Revolution 2 going with his 16″ and it was really interesting to compare the view of the horsehead nebula that I and Prem had just checked out in my Light Bridge 16″ to that of the real-time imager. Well, what can I say? While it was super cool to visually see the horsehead and the flame nebula with an h-beta filter, the view that the imager provided was really unbelievably detailed and in color! I will have to try out this real-time imaging thing myself now since I found out form the guys that My ZWO 224 can do the same thing with a laptop.

Having the warm house right next to us was very, very nice. It was extremely cold and by around 1 am at about 15* F. I just could not do it anymore and decided to call it a night. What a night though! Skies like this are what we dream of, and I feel privileged to have experienced them with a couple of great fellow astro enthusiasts! Vlad.